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Offshore Wind is Making Big Waves

(3BL Media/Justmeans) — When it comes to renewable energy, there’s a new kid on the block and he’s making lots of new friends quickly. We’re talking of course, about offshore wind. While once resisted as too expensive and too unsightly, the technology has finally found its sea legs and is now really making a splash.

Europe is, of course, where most of the activity has been. It started with Vindeby, the world’s first offshore wind farm, off the Danish coast. Vindeby, which was commissioned in 1991, has eleven turbines, with a combined capacity of 4.95 MW.

That’s significantly less than the output of just one of the thirty-two 8 MW turbines that Danish-based Dong Energy is installing at the Burbo Bank Extension  wind farm off the English west coast near Liverpool. Dong, which also operates Vindeby, currently has 3,000 MW of offshore wind online, and plans to grow that to 6,500 MW by 2020. Their 21 existing facilities are located off the coasts of Denmark, the Netherlands and the UK. Dong, which both builds and operates these wind farms, is one of a growing number of players in this market.

Better known perhaps, are the turbine manufacturers. Vestas, the Danish turbine maker, has now formed a joint venture with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries of Japan, to compete with Siemens, the longstanding frontrunner. General Electric is now getting into the game as well, along with a number of Chinese manufacturers.

Here are some reasons why offshore wind makes sense. First, it overcomes most of the not-in-my-back-yard (NIMBY) concerns about visual pollution and noise, though there has been resistance from certain upscale seaside communities, notably the Cape Wind project in Nantucket Sound, and Donald Trump’s lawsuit attempting to block a wind farm off the coast of Scotland, near a golf course he owns. (Trump lost, Cape Wind is apparently “dead in the water.”)

China Breaking From the Pack in Renewables Race

(3BL Media/Justmeans) — We’ve all heard the stories about companies that didn’t see the future coming and ended up being left behind. Eastman Kodak comes to mind as one example. They blithely kept pumping out film and chemicals as the world switched over to digital photography. They now stand reduced to a shadow of their former glory.

These days one has to wonder, can the same thing happen to a country? The US has long been known as a leader in technological innovation and competitiveness. But in the area of energy, an unusually cozy relationship between the fossil fuel industry and the representatives whose campaigns they have supported has skewed the level playing field of the free market that those same politicians often claim to be the ideal law of the land. Even under Obama, who recognized the urgent need to move into renewables, entrenched subsidies for fossil fuels still exceed those for renewables by a factor of four to one. This, and the acompanying atmosphere of doubt about the science of cliamte change, has served to delay development and deployment of renewable energy sources.

The incoming administration is expected to double down on this backward-looking bias, having said as much in multiple campaign events. Meanwhile, the rest of the world, and China in particular, does not seem to be blinded by such self-serving patronage, and is leaving us in the dust.

NY’s Energy Vision Spelled Out in Syracuse Symposium

(3BL Media/Justmeans) - A group of movers and shakers met last week in Syracuse to describe the vision for the state’s energy economy at the Energy in the 21st Century Symposium. This year’s feature was The Electric Grid. This was particularly timely in the wake of the release of NY’s Renewable Energy Vision (REV), which calls for a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, (from 1990 levels), a 23% reduction in building energy consumption (from 2010 levels), and for the state to receive 50% of its electricity from renewable sources, without nuclear, all by 2030.  This vision puts NY on the path to play a leading role in the transformation of the national energy economy.  In his opening remarks, Richard Kauffman, NY’s first “energy czar,” came right out and said, “It’s time to stop rebuilding the grid of yesterday.” He went on to describe the new grid as “hybrid, bi-directional, flexible, and both centralized and distributed.” Solar in the state has increased 600% since 2012. The goal is to have no more coal plants by 2020 along with a state tax credit of $2000 for zero emission vehicles.

Former Syracuse Mayor Matt Driscoll, now commissioner of NYS Department of Transportation, spoke of investing in transportation as an effective way to create jobs. His office has embraced Smart Growth and the notion of Complete Streets. Given the state’s commitment to public transportation, NY can boast the lowest per capita consumption of motor fuel. NY’s 2.7 billion annual passenger trips account for one-third the national total. As for transportation’s tie-in to the electric grid, Driscoll announced plans to add 3,000 EV charging stations by 2018, as well as a Transportation Solar Initiative to add solar PV along highway right of ways.

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