Environment Forum

Caveat investor: Wind may let you down

February 26, 2010

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John Laforet is president of Wind Concerns Ontario, a coalition of 42 grassroots organizations aiming to curtail development of wind farms in the central Canadian province of Ontario.  He is also running for municipal public office.

Which way will the wind (power) blow in 2010?

December 28, 2009

windturbinesThe United States became the No. 1 wind power market in the world in 2008. But under the credit crisis in 2009, the building of new wind farms slackened and the United States ceded its top global spot to China.

Wind projects don’t harm property values: study

December 3, 2009

Not-in-my-backyard — or NIMBY — protests can stall or stop wind power projects, with their spinning turbines, or other renewable energy projects, as Reuters has reported here.

Gaze into clean technology’s crystal ball for 2010

December 1, 2009

Clean technology investors who have suffered through 2009 can find cheer in a new report by the Cleantech Group that gives its top ten predictions for 2010.

Which U.S. states make the grade on net-metering?

November 24, 2009

Advocates for renewable energy hail net-metering as a key policy so that electricity from solar and wind is generated at the same place where it is consumed.

The race for U.S. smart-grid cash

September 18, 2009

Utilities across the United States are rushing to a federal stimulus program that is doling out money to create a “smart grid” — systems that will upgrade the electricity grid.******In this story, Reuters correspondent Eileen O’Grady looks at the tough job facing the U.S. Department of Energy: They have to divvy up $4.5 billion in smart-grid money among some 565 applications.******Smart grid technology measures and modifies power usage in homes and businesses and improves grid reliability. Experts envision that it will open the door to a new era with “smart” appliances that turn themselves on and off, electric cars, more renewable energy and more efficiency on power lines.******San Diego Gas & Electric is one of the utilities hoping to launch a smart grid through the federal program and has applied for $100 million in stimulus funds.******Their plan would build micro smart grids at the University of California, San Diego and a residential community in San Diego County. They would work with companies like IBM, Cisco and Itron on the system technologies, software and hardware.******”They not only have to talk with each other but we have to make sure the entire network is secure. So from an intellectual security standpoint, we’ll ensure that we have that set-up, that we have the ability to communicate from one device and we make it seamless for the customer,” said Michael Niggli, chief operations officer at San Diego Gas & Electric.******Another major issue the utility hopes to solve is what happens when energy from renewable resources is intermittent, with its power generated fading or spiking.******”If the wind stops blowing or if the sun has clouds that intervene, so you can be in a situation where the power supply is affected,” Niggli said in a phone interview with Reuters.******”That’s a lot different than what we have today … where it’s like driving a car. If you want to go faster, you push the accelerator.”******Niggli envisions a system where customers can control their home energy use remotely, turning on the air-conditioning from a computer through the Internet or even on  their handset.******Some companies that are partnering with utilities are not putting all their eggs in one basket in the race for the smart-grid stimulus funds.******IBM is working as a vendor with a dozen utilities that have applied for money.******If the smart grid is done right, then customers won’t even notice a difference, said IBM’s Stephen Callahan, who leads the company’s Intelligent Utility Network unit for the Americas.******”Those customers shouldn’t see anything but improvement in cost, reliability, all those things,” Callahan said.******We wanted to know what readers think about the federal program to jump-start smart grid projects. What should the DOE prioritize? What kind of projects would you like to see?******(Photo: The sun is shown as it rises between power transmission lines in Burbank, California. Photo credit: Fred Prouser/Reuters)*********************

from Tales from the Trail:

Team Obama’s Environmental Irony Tour

August 7, 2009

OBAMA/Okay, so it's August in Washington. It's hot. Congress has gone home. Even the summer interns are packing up and getting out of town. So it's not surprising that top members of the Obama administration might be ready for a road trip.

Green Portfolio: Pacific Ethanol shines

June 30, 2009

Shares in the suffering utility Pacific Ethanol shot up over 8 percent on Tuesday, reaping the rewards of cheaper ethanol prices, thanks largely to what is expected to be a bumper crop year for U.S. corn. Units of Pacific Ethanol that owned four ethanol plants filed for Chapter 11 protection last month, stung by volatile prices for corn, low fuel demand and the credit crisis.******A senior company official at India’s Suzlon Energy said the wind power company was looking at selling assets and shares to lower its debt, dealing a major blow to its shares, falling 11.44 percent in Tuesday trading.

Wacky windmill forces California highway shutdown

May 4, 2009

Turns out birds aren’t the only ones with a reason to steer clear of wind farms.

Dark days for renewable energy

April 3, 2009

We knew things were going badly in the renewable energy industry, but this week we got a grim view of just how ugly it looks out there.