Monday, November 21, 2011

The State of the Industry: Wind Making Important Gains, Facing Legislative Uncertainty

Workers preparing the base for
Turbine at Chesapeake college in
Of all the renewable energy technologies available, wind energy appears to be the one most capable of being harnessed to a true utility scale. Cumulatively, wind energy production has soared 30% in the last ten years. The Global Wind Energy Council tallies the number of wind energy jobs at over 400,000. Within the last decade large wind farms have begun to dot the nation, particularly in the Midwest and Deep South, where strong winds and open country both exist in optimal quantities.

Wind has become a part of many conventional utility companies’ portfolios where it has proved to be anything but unreliable. During the scorching summer heat of 2011, Texas electrical grids buckled under soaring demand and conventional modes of production could not keep pace. Wind turbines picked up the slack and kept the air conditioning and lights on in thousands of Texas homes.

While the wind sector has experienced its share of the attrition from the global economic downturn, the worldwide wind picture appears strong, with European markets stable and China claiming the top spot in terms of global wind energy production.

On the other hand, the United States has seen its share of production in the wind sector decline by half in 2011. This year has seen the nation’s first planned offshore wind farm, Cape Wind, struggle with bureaucratic red tape and a fierce backlash from citizens concerned with the sight, sound and placement of the turbines. These factors, combined with wrangling on behalf of the utility companies and lawsuits have caused the gears of Cape wind to grind to a halt.

More menacing is the prospect that Congress, (who recent polling shows is tied with Hugo Chavez at 9% for popularity among American citizens) gripped by the hysteria of austerity, will decide to scale back or entirely dispense with the federal grants making much of utility scale wind possible. If this happens, analysts and industry leaders predict that, while it will not kill the wind industry in the United States, it will greatly slow its advance.

At a time when the nation badly needs jobs, it makes little sense to gut the funding from an internationally growing industry. It goes beyond poor judgment and into the realm of outright cruelty, when one takes into account the thousands of Americans who will lose their jobs should Congress decide to remove these important and necessary subsidies.

Contrary to what some would have us believe, the oil, natural gas and especially the nuclear energy sector all had substantial subsidies, grants and miscellaneous perks afforded them by Congress in efforts to turn them into the behemoths of industry they are today. At a time when Marcellus Shale is generating revenue hand over fist, it is nonsensical to advocate for the retention of subsidies for the fossil fuel industry while demanding that government cut aid to clean energy.

On November 2, 2011, bipartisan legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives to extend the renewable energy production tax credits. The legislation is H.R. 3307: “American Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit Extension Act of 2011.” I strongly urge anyone who reads this post to write, email or call their congressman or congresswoman and urge them to cosponsor this bill and demand that they advocate for America’s rightful clean and renewable energy future.

- By Richard Harrod

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Solar and Wind Expo wraps up in Massachusetts – Part Deux

Ted Dillard showing his
electric motorcycle
The 2012 Massachusetts Solar and Wind Expo will be held the first weekend of November in the Royal Plaza Trade Center in Marlborough. We are looking forward to growing the number of vendors at the show and people walking through the door by expanding on our advertizing campaign, engaging our current partners early and adding more.

Although the Expo is not for another year we stay engaged in the Massachusetts energy community and will continue our mission of promoting renewable energy any way we can. One of those ways will be to point out misinformation and injustice anytime we see it.

I recently read that the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, a Cape Wind opponent, has recently received a large contribution so it can continue to fight this much needed and good-for-everyone project. A quick search on Wikipedia revealed the following: The Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit self-styled environmental organization dedicated to the opposition of the Cape Wind project[1] and to the long-term preservation of Nantucket Sound.[2] Alliance membership and allies include wealthy residents of Cape Cod, executives in fossil fuel industries, some local towns, Chambers of Commerce, several environmental groups, many fishing and recreation groups, and public figures including billionaire oil heir William Koch, former mining executive Doug Yearley, former candidate for U.S. President and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, the late U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy, Attorney General Tom Reilly, and Congressman Bill Delahunt.[1][3][4] Its current president is Charles McLaughlin of Harwich. Among its directors have been Dan Wolf, President and CEO of airline Cape Air, along with former candidate for Massachusetts governor and convenience store baron Christy Mihos (source: public records at the Massachusetts Division of Corporations).
A self-styled environmental organization dedicated to the opposition of the first offshore wind farm? Cape Wind is a project that is decades behind the rest of the world and would create many short and long term jobs as well as reduce our dependence on fossils. That is why the Solar and Wind Expo will continue to do its job: Pointing out issues like this, promoting and creating demand for renewables until we no longer need fossil fuels and beyond.
Vadim Polikov of Astrum Solar
demonstrates solar power to
a very interested attendee to the
Mass. Solar and Wind Expo
I want to thank the folks who helped make the Expo a success. They were instrumental in spreading the word and believed in us from the beginning:
And the many who attended and are now evaluating their energy choices
Look for future blogs where we’ll tell you about plans for the 2012 Maryland Expo. We are putting together more seminars, more EVs--including the first ever Electropalooza. Electropalooza will showcase factory and homemade electric motorcycles and cars and their capabilities on a closed circuit track. Don’t miss it. Save the date!
George Lopez

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Solar and Wind Expo wraps up in Massachusetts and now looks to Maryland

The kids had fun on
Ted Dillards Custom

It was a beautiful weekend in Marlborough, Massachusetts, on November 4-6th. Over 2000 people interested in renewable energy came through the door and were welcomed by solar and wind energy companies, Segways, electric cars, an electric motorcycle and electric bikes.

The free seminars were very popular and all classes were well attended. The most popular classes were those on solar leasing, wind and geothermal.

The weather cooperated the entire weekend had sun and temperatures in 60s. A week earlier they had a 30-inch snowfall and all was melted by the time we arrived. The folks at the Royal Plaza Trade Center were great and treated us very well. The guys at Capital Convention Services even threw in the wall-to-wall carpeting. We extend a big thank you to Pat Silva and Erik Palm and the entire staff of the Trade Center.

A week earlier due to the storm Massachusetts had been hit with a massive power outage and the Hotel had become one of the staging areas for the reconnection efforts. While folks on TV lamented about how the electric company was not doing enough, we were treated to an incredible demonstration. I have never seen so many boom trucks in one location in my life. The parking lot had generators running around the clock with staging area for poles and other needed items. The lobby was deployment central for hundreds of workers from all over the country. The poor guys had to take their clothes with them every day because they did not know if they would come back to this hotel or another. By the time the Expo began setting up, the entire state of Massachusetts had power. My hat goes off to National Grid and all the guys who gave their all to get it done.

Now we focus on Maryland and the plans are taking shape. We are putting together a great event, bigger and better than last year. The first ever “Electropalooza” will take place in May along with the Expo. We are expecting electric motorcycles and cars from all over to descend on Timonium Fairgrounds. Stay tuned.

George Lopez
 in our Key West Headquaters.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The State of the Industry: Ray of Sunshine Winds its Way through Pennsylvania State Legislature

Over the past year Pennsylvania has been a tough spot for the solar industry. Solar power benefited greatly from the enacting of the Pennsylvania Sunshine Program in 2008, which created a $100 million fund for residential consumers and business owners to tap into to help offset the cost of going solar.

This created a boom in solar installations, but now the fund is all but depleted and state has outpaced its renewable portfolio standard carve out for solar, meaning that the value of SRECs (the certificates or credits generated based on kilowatts of solar installed and then sold back into the grid) in Pennsylvania has tumbled from over $300 to around $50 over the last year.

This crash of SREC prices and disappearance of subsidies is compounded by a less than proactive approach from the Governor’s Office in Harrisburg. Governor Corbett has focused almost all energy policy on the exploitation of natural gas from Marcellus Shale. Additionally he has banned state agencies from investing in infrastructure upgrades or repairs that involve the use of renewable technologies.

Many companies are diversifying or relocating, opening offices in more renewable energy friendly states like New Jersey or Massachusetts or simply leaving the state altogether. The state’s share of solar jobs has gone from near 7000 to under 5000 in the course of one year.

The one ray of sunshine in this landscape is coming from a new proposed law entitled “Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards Act” (HB 1580) sponsored and promoted by State Representative Chris Ross (R – Chester County). The bill would increase the solar carve-out in the Pennsylvania’s RPS to .5% and also close the state’s borders to purchases of SRECs from outside Pennsylvania.

Rep. Chris Ross
Rep. Ross has been buoyed by a tremendous amount for support. Legislators were signing on as cosponsors before the legislation was even written. As it stands now, the bill is before the Consumer Affairs committee. It is not known for certain when the bill will make it out of their deliberations and to a vote on the assembly floor, but experts in the industry believe it will not only pass, but will also be signed by Governor Corbett if it makes it to his desk.

HB 1580 is a very promising initiative and, assuming it passes, should stabilize the solar industry in Pennsylvania. It will take longer for the industry to undergo the necessary market shakeout and for supply to come into line with demand. Nonetheless, it is more than a little encouraging to see local lawmakers fighting for the jobs and welfare of the solar industry and understanding the promise that renewable energy holds, not just for Pennsylvania, but for the United States and beyond.

- by Richard Harrod