Archive for June, 2006

Details on the biofuel conference to be held in Orlando on August 30 by the Florida Department of Agriculture can be found on their website here.

Craig Williams


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The Naples Daily News has a good article on the building interest in ethanol production from sugar cane here in Florida. One company, U.S. EnviroFuels, will be breaking ground on an ethanol plant near Tampa in August.

Craig Williams

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I mentioned in the previous post that I hadn’t seen many reports here in Florida about the state’s #2 ranking for emissions of CO2. There’s a report on it here from Tampa’s Channel 10 News. The source of the information is actually from a Florida PIRG report you can find here.

Craig Williams

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The Tallahassee Democrat offers a good history lesson today in this article on Florida’s second attempt to deal with energy dependence. It also mentions a disturbing fact that I’ve recently seen in a California newspaper but it doesn’t seem to have gotten much print here:

Florida ranks second nationwide among states with the largest increase in emissions of carbon dioxide, the primary global warming pollutant, caused by auto emissions and from coal- and oil-driven utilities.

I believe it was Texas that beat us out. Not really something you want to be known for. I think it would sound much better if it were: Florida ranks first nationwide in the conversion of sunshine to electricity.

We have to start setting goals.

Craig Williams

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If there’s one aspect of this age that best characterizes us, it’s that we don’t like inconveniences. The tv remote epitomizes the whole lifestyle. But Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” is one movie we should get up off the couch to go see. If you think you know most of the global warming facts, you’ll be quite surprised. Most of the points made are quite startling and present a far more critical situation than in most, readily available information.

It’s not in every theater so you may have to look for it. Fandango can help. You can also visit the movie’s website here.

Craig Williams

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Jeb Bush signed the Florida Energy Act into law yesterday at a ceremony in Tampa. The new law sets up a rebate for photovoltaic systems at $4 per watt with a cap at $20,000 for residential customers. A $500 rebate will be given for installations of solar hot water systems manufactured in the state and $300 for imports. All rebates are to be effective July 1, 2006.

The bill also establishes an Energy Commission to advise the governor and legislature on energy issues. Other incentives for energy conservation and biofuels are included. An article on the signing can be found here at the Lakeland Ledger. For more details on the rebates and incentives, click here for the Florida Solar Energy Center’s website.

Overall, it’s a welcome but modest start for renewables in Florida. There’s still much more work to be done.

Craig Williams

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The American Wind Energy Association (an industry lobbying group) held this large convention (~4500 attendees) in Pittsburgh PA 6/4 through 6/7/2006. The David L. Lawrence Convention Center incorporates “green” building techniques, the reason for its selection. I won’t attempt to cover everything, but the advances in wind power are astounding.The opening General Session addresses were by Gov. Tom Vilsack, IA; Gov. Ed Rendell, PA; Alexander Karsner, US Assistant Secretary of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, DOE; and Randall Swisher, Executive Director of AWEA.Mr. Swisher said that the wind market had increased 36% during 2005, with 2431 MW of turbines installed. He mentioned climate change as an important driver. The European Union has the most installations.

Pres. Bush wants “up to 20% of the Nation’s energy” produced by renewables by 2020. AWEA recently held a career fair. Mr. Swisher told me later that there is a strong need for engineers and technicians trained in wind systems. AWEA has started a campaign, “If not wind . . . Then what?”, implying that one needs to consider from where the nation’s energy will come. There are transmission line constraints, and getting those lines permitted is more difficult and troublesome than permitting wind farms because of the length.

Secretary Karsner emphasized the research and development that DOE’s EERE is chartered to accomplish. He said that they “want to listen more to respond better”. They are presently planning transmission corridors across the nation to better tie sources to load centers. (There is also an Asia-Pacific cooperative that supports wind.)

Gov. Vilsack emphasized the need for Iowa to plan for the energy future, and how wind and biomass (ethanol) were the paths chosen. Iowa is now #1 in soy-diesel production. There are now 747 wind turbines in north central and northwest Iowa.

Iowa community colleges are training technicians to work on wind turbines.

Gov. Vilsack ended with a dramatic recounting of how Iowa National Guard troops were at risk in Iraq, and that he called all survivors of deceased Iowa warfighters.

He spoke of a helicopter pilot whose craft was hit by a missile as he transported 18 troops. The pilot’s widow said that he saved the lives of 18 survivors even when he might have saved his own instead. She said that she was able to live with his death as the troops must have needed her husband more that she did.

Gov. Rendell (PA) welcomed the development of windpower in the state and is a strong advocate. Pennsylvania has many areas under windfarm development. He is a champion of education, and has been involved in alternative energy talks. He wants to get energy from within the state to avoid the money going out of state. He expects wind to provide 4000 MW by 2020. He urges Pres. Bush to achieve energy independence by 2020. Pennsylvania has developed a model wind ordinance so that communities could rapidly adopt wind power without a long delay. They are working with Audubon and Sierra Club in avoiding migratory paths in wind turbine siting. A PA wind assessment is being completed by a Catholic University there.

The state has installed solar energy at the PA State Capitol for emergency communications support. There is an energy grant program. Transportation uses 60% of their energy. An Advance Portfolio Standard (or RPS) is in effect to shift fuel usage. They are buying hybrid cars for state uses that aren’t off road and are restricting the purchase of SUVs where they aren’t used off road.

Turnpike E85 pumps are coming at $1.75 a gallon! Clean Coal Gasification will take coal waste that is around the state and produce diesel fuel, cleaning up large waste piles that contaminate water. Their energy secretary is Katy McGinty, a former Undersecretary of DOE RE programs.

I attended the conference Technical session track, which dealt with the wind regime (amount and variation; wind climate) and current developments in wind energy. There were also tracks on Business, Policy, and Utilities. I’ll cover a few highlights. The presentations will be available on CD from AWEA for those who wish to buy them.

There is an efficiency push to get more energy per turbine, which means larger diameter rotors. Availability is now at ~97%; the capacity factor due to the wind is usually said to be 25% to 35%. The production rate is one WT (wind turbine) every 15 minutes. 6000 MW is expected this year. There has been $4 billion invested in wind.

There was a session focusing upon “Reducing Uncertainty in Wind Resource Assessment”. Marc Schwartz presented tall tower data. Michael Brower, writer of “Cool Energy” while he was at UCS, is indeed the principal at AWS Truewind that makes high resolution wind maps to aid state WT siting.

The Gov. of IL wants 8% RE by 2013, and 75% of that to be from wind. In PA, electricity is now 6.6 cents/kWh. Exel Energy is now the #1 purchaser of wind energy (he emphasized that he would work that into his talk seven times and did so).

The cost of wind energy is now increasing slightly due to demand and increasing labor and steel costs. Carbon issues are driving changes in energy selection.

Two kilomiles of new 750 kV transmission lines are needed across the US.

Utilities must stop “science projects” and make money. There was a reference to “reverse NIMBYism”, where residents really want to have wind turbines nearby. Natural gas peaking may be used to stabilize wind energy, but there are also electronic means.

The electrical Grid is “one machine” and needs wide area control. Wind forecasting of wind ramps (increasing speed) is needed. Autoregressive models perform poorly during wind ramps (sudden increases in wind speed). Vertical or 3-D sensing of speed is required for better accuracy. Turbulent mixing is an important factor. There may be “incenting” [incentivizing] of forecasts with increases or decreases in fees for demonstrated accuracy.

At AWS Truewind, these specialized forecasting graduates need diverse modeling and atmospheric skills. Staffing is moderate now. Modeling and deep programming skills are preferred.

There have been well-funded anti-wind campaigns like stopillwind.org, with free DVDs emphasizing all the bad things.

One turbine manufacturer had the nacelle of their new turbine on display. It has four large generators on the transmission for great reliability and ease of change out. There is a movable door on the back that the internal hoisting crane can reach. (There were about two square blocks of floor area for the exhibits.)

At WVs Mountaineer windfarm, there were some 48 bats killed per turbine, a significant problem. There were no kills at stopped turbines. FAA warning lights don’t matter. Bats investigate moving blades, while birds avoid them. Two groups have a marine radar on a truck for studies of flight paths. Handheld bat call detectors are used for detecting activity, but not useful to tell how many are present. (House cats, cars, and buildings kill far more birds annually.)

Hoary bats have lower pitched squeaks than others, so species determination is possible. Birds migrate about 500 ft above ground and thus are above wind turbines.

There were some future investigations of wind energy directed to hydrogen electrolyzers, and pumping air at 1200 psi into caverns to store energy. I have a contact at Univ. of ND that is working with wind to hydrogen electronic power regulators and is willing to provide information and advice.

This conference presented the current endeavors and future studies in wind research and development. There has been sufficient progress for evolved designs and the challenges are becoming better defined.

Frank Leslie,
Adjunct Professor at Florida Tech, Melbourne FL

P.S.: En route, I stopped at the Beech Mountain wind turbine test site (~5100 ft) near Banner Elk NC run by the Appalachian University at Boone NC. They have many small wind turbines in test there, and use datalogging and wireless transfer. The site is open to the public.

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