Lyon/Geneva, 17 October 2013 – The specialized cancer agency of the World Health Organization, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), announced today that it has classified outdoor air pollution as carcinogenic to humans (Group 1). 1
After thoroughly reviewing the latest available scientific literature, the world’s leading experts convened by the IARC Monographs Programme concluded that there is sufficient evidence that exposure to outdoor air pollution causes lung cancer (Group 1). They also noted a positive association with an increased risk of bladder cancer.
Particulate matter, a major component of outdoor air pollution, was evaluated separately and was also classified as carcinogenic to humans (Group 1).
The IARC evaluation showed an increasing risk of lung cancer with increasing levels of exposure to particulate matter and air pollution. Although the composition of air pollution and levels of exposure can vary dramatically between locations, the conclusions of the Working Group apply to all regions of the world.
A major environmental health problem
Air pollution is already known to increase risks for a wide range of diseases, such as respiratory and heart diseases. Studies indicate that in recent years exposure levels have increased significantly in some parts of the world, particularly in rapidly industrializing countries with large populations. The most recent data indicate that in 2010, 223 000 deaths from lung cancer worldwide resulted from air pollution. 2
The most widespread environmental carcinogen
“The air we breathe has become polluted with a mixture of cancer-causing substances,” says Dr Kurt Straif, Head of the IARC Monographs Section. “We now know that outdoor air pollution is not only a major risk to health in general, but also a leading environmental cause of cancer deaths.”
The IARC Monographs Programme, dubbed the “encyclopaedia of carcinogens”, provides an authoritative source of scientific evidence on cancer-causing substances and exposures. In the past, the Programme evaluated many individual chemicals and specific mixtures that occur in outdoor air pollution. These included diesel engine exhaust, solvents, metals, and dusts. But this is the first time that experts have classified outdoor air pollution as a cause of cancer.
“Our task was to evaluate the air everyone breathes rather than focus on specific air pollutants,” explains Dr Dana Loomis, Deputy Head of the Monographs Section. “The results from the reviewed studies point in the same direction: the risk of developing lung cancer is significantly increased in people exposed to air pollution.”
IARC Monographs evaluations
Volume 109 of the IARC Monographs is based on the independent review of more than 1000 scientific papers from studies on five continents. The reviewed studies analyse the carcinogenicity of various pollutants present in outdoor air pollution, especially particulate matter and transportation-related pollution. The evaluation is driven by findings from large epidemiologic studies that included millions of people living in Europe, North and South America, and Asia.
The predominant sources of outdoor air pollution are transportation, stationary power generation, industrial and agricultural emissions, and residential heating and cooking. Some air pollutants have natural sources, as well.
“Classifying outdoor air pollution as carcinogenic to humans is an important step,” stresses IARC Director Dr Christopher Wild. “There are effective ways to reduce air pollution and, given the scale of the exposure affecting people worldwide, this report should send a strong signal to the international community to take action without further delay.”
For more information, please contact
Véronique Terrasse, Communications Group, or at +33 (0) 645 284 952 ;
or Dr Nicolas Gaudin, IARC Communications
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) is part of the World Health Organization. Its mission is to coordinate and conduct research on the causes of human cancer, the mechanisms of carcinogenesis, and to develop scientific strategies for cancer control. The Agency is involved in both epidemiological and laboratory research and disseminates scientific information through publications, meetings, courses, and fellowships. If you wish your name to be removed from our press release e-mailing list, please write to email@example.com.
1 Please note that the summary evaluation will be published by The Lancet Oncology online on Thursday 24 October 2013
We already knew American wind power benefits our economy, since it supports over 80,000 American jobs, adds billions of dollars into local, state, and national economies, and keeps our air clean by displacing harmful carbon emissions. But recent news adds to the evidence that wind costs have declined significantly and the savings are being passed onto everyday utility ratepayers like you and me.
1) New Lazard report shows impressive decline.
Released just last week, a new report by the financial services firm Lazard found wind’s costs have declined more than 50 percent over the past four years.
“Wind costs continue to decline; we estimate that the LCOE of leading technologies has fallen by more than 50% in the last four years. While many had anticipated significant declines in the cost of utility-scale solar PV, few anticipated these sorts of cost declines for wind technology.”
2) Electric utility leaders from around the country agree–wind power is affordable.
As wind energy prices decline, and electricity consumers and utilities are faced with choices about new electricity generation, wind energy is increasingly a competitive choice. With improving technology and siting techniques, wind energy is becoming one of the most affordable forms of electricity today.
Here’s what electric utility representatives are saying:
July 16, 2013 – “Wind prices are extremely competitive right now, offering lower costs than other possible resources, like natural gas plants.” - David Sparby, president & CEO of Xcel Energy’s Northern States Power, announcing 600 MW of new wind power contracts.
July 22, 2013 – ”Low-cost wind energy provides [Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corp.] with a hedge against fluctuating natural gas energy prices … We will continue to pursue energy options that allow AECC’s member cooperatives to provide reliable electricity at the lowest possible cost.” - Duane Highley, president & CEO of Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corp., after signing a 150-MW wind contract
August 12, 2013 – “The expansion is planned to be built at no net cost to the company’s customers and will help stabilize electric rates over the long term by providing a rate reduction totaling $10 million per year by 2017, commencing with a $3.3 million reduction in 2015.” – MidAmerican Energy Co. press releaseafter a recent Iowa Utilities Board decision to allow the utility to build 1,050 additional megawatts of wind generation in Iowa.
3) Actual contract prices and capital costs have dropped, as documented by the United States Department of Energy.
With this month’s release of the Department of Energy’s Wind Technologies Market Report 2012came news that wind power costs are even lower than last year.
The report found capital cost to develop wind power continues to drop, the average cost to purchase electricity provided by wind is falling (see chart below), the capacity to draw more electricity powered by wind continues to increase, and domestic content of new wind turbines installed in the U.S. continues to weigh in at (approximately) a healthy 70 percent American made.
Below is a chart using data from EIA that illustrates wind’s costs compared to other energy options:
“Study finds price of wind energy in the U.S. near all-time low”
– Research & Development Magazine
“US Wind Power Prices Down To $0.04 Per kWh”
- Clean Technica
“Wind energy a wise investment”
– Kansas City Star editorial
“New study finds that the price of wind energy in the U.S. is near an all-time low”
- WindPower Engineering & Development
”Wind Power Growing, Becoming Less Costly”
- Earth Techling
“Go green to save green”- Amarillo Globe-News (TX) editorial
Mar 22, 2013
Re: “Make wind part of the equation,” Mar. 12
The Daily Times editorial board was right on in their recent editorial on offshore wind power. We must diversify our energy portfolio and wind power — both offshore and on land — will bring immense benefits to our state and the lower Eastern Shore in particular.
Some of our state’s best wind resources are on the lower Eastern Shore. The developer of one proposed project in Somerset County, the Great Bay Wind Energy Center, has gone above and beyond, ensuring land-based wind is developed in a responsible manner for the environment and surrounding communities.
For starters, Great Bay Wind has done extensive outreach to groups locally and across the state to ensure they understand the project and what it could mean for the area. On its website, you’ll find supporting letters from the Somerset Historical Society, Chambers of Commerce, Somerset Farm Bureau, Somerset public schools, and the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.
These groups support the proposed wind project for a number of reasons — economic and environmental.
The Eastern Shore currently imports more than 70 percent of its power from sources like coal and foreign oil. Climate change due to fossil fuel pollution and subsequent sea level rise in the Chesapeake Bay are grave threats not only to our own way of life, but also to the many species of birds, mammals and fish that inhabit the region. The proposed 150 megawatt project would double our state’s generation from the wind and sun, while providing power to more than 45,000 homes.
In terms of avoided greenhouse gas emissions, this would be equivalent to taking 40,000 cars off the road every year.
In addition to avoiding pollution from fossil fuels, Great Bay Wind has worked vigorously to ensure a limited impact on the surrounding environment. For example, the bald eagle population is thriving in the region and the developer has been voluntarily working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over the past three years to develop an eagle conservation plan. This plan will ensure the species continues to thrive in the Chesapeake watershed over the long term after the project is constructed.
While all energy sources have impacts on wildlife, Great Bay Wind is working to ensure a limited impact that has no meaningful effect on bird or wildlife populations in the region.
Finally, wind power stands to be a great economic boon to the Eastern Shore. According to the Jacob France Institute of the University of Baltimore, the Great Bay Wind project will bring in $2.9 million of new tax revenue in its first year of operation alone, and the total amount of tax revenue generated over the 30-year life of the project will be more than $44.4 million.
That tax revenue could be used by Somerset County to invest in new roads, schools, public safety and or even to reduce existing taxes that local residents currently pay.
For our climate, our health, and our economy, moving forward with wind development is the right decision for Maryland and the lower Eastern Shore.
Tom Carlson is Maryland campaign director for the Chesapeake Climate Action Network,www.chesapeakeclimate.
It’s time for that national “listening tour” on energy and climate, President Obama. Some evidence comes in a new survey from the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University (seen via Tom Yulsman on Facebook). Here’s an excerpt from the news release:
In a recent survey of Republicans and Republican-leaning Independents conducted by the Center for Climate Change Communication (4C) at George Mason University, a majority of respondents (62 percent) said they feel America should take steps to address climate change. More than three out of four survey respondents (77 percent) said the United States should use more renewable energy sources, and of those, most believe that this change should begin immediately.
The national survey, conducted in January 2013, asked more than 700 people who self-identified as Republicans and Republican-leaning Independents about energy and climate change.
“Over the past few years, our surveys have shown that a growing number of Republicans want to see Congress do more to address climate change,” said Mason professor Edward Maibach, director of 4C. “In this survey, we asked a broader set of questions to see if we could better understand how Republicans, and Independents who have a tendency to vote Republican, think about America’s energy and climate change situation.”
The reason a listening tour is the next step, and not a pre-packaged batch of legislation or other steps, is to build on the common ground across a wide range of Americans on energy thrift, innovation and fair play (meaning policies that distort the playing field, with mandated corn ethanol productionand tax breaks for fossil fuel companies prime examples).
In Mother Jones, Chris Mooney has an interesting spin on the survey, noting that the way global warming was framed probably had an impact on the level of buy-in on the questions.
It’s been clear for years that there are ways around the familiar partisan roadblocks on climate-smart energy policies. In 2009, the “Six Americas” survey by the same George Mason researchers and counterparts at Yale revealed this clearly. I distilled those findings into three slides here.
Here’s a bit more on the survey from the George Mason Web site:
This short report is based on a January 2013 national survey of Republicans and Republican-leaning Independents. We found that they prefer clean energy as the basis of America’s energy future and say the benefits of clean energy, such as energy independence (66%) saving resources for our children and grandchildren (57%), and providing a better life for our children and grandchildren (56%) outweigh the costs, such as more government regulation (42%) or higher energy prices (31%).
By a margin of 2 to 1, respondents say America should take action to reduce our fossil fuel use. Also, only one third of respondents agree with the Republican Party’s position on climate change, while about half agree with the party’s position on how to meet America’s energy needs.
You can download the report here: A National Survey of Republicans and Republican-Leaning Independents on Energy and Climate Change.
New York Times, Opinion, April 3, 2013
Stanford Report, March 12, 2013
A study, co-authored by Stanford researcher Mark Z. Jacobson, outlines a path to statewide renewable energy conversion, and away from natural gas and imported fuel.
BY ROB JORDAN
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo will soon decide whether to approve hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in the state. To date, no alternative to expanded gas drilling has been proposed.
But a new study finds that it is technically and economically feasible to convert New York’s all-purpose energy infrastructure to one powered by wind, water and sunlight (WWS). The plan, scheduled for publication in the journal Energy Policy, shows the way to a sustainable, inexpensive and reliable energy supply that creates local jobs and saves the state billions of dollars in pollution-related costs.
Mark Z. Jacobson, a senior fellow with the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment and the Precourt Institute for Energy, co-authored the study with scientists from Cornell University and the University of California-Davis.
“Converting to wind, water and sunlight is feasible, will stabilize costs of energy and will produce jobs while reducing health and climate damage,” said Jacobson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering.
The study is the first to develop a plan to fulfill all of a state’s transportation, electric power, industry, and heating and cooling energy needs with renewable energy, and to calculate the number of new devices and jobs created, amount of land and ocean areas required, and policies needed for such an infrastructure change. It also provides new calculations of air pollution mortality and morbidity impacts and costs based on multiple years of air quality data.
The study concludes that while a WWS conversion may result in initial capital cost increases, such as the cost of building renewable energy power plants, these costs would be more than made up for over time by the elimination of fuel costs. The overall switch would reduce New York’s end-use power demand by about 37 percent and stabilize energy prices, since fuel costs would be zero, according to the study. It would also create a net gain in manufacturing, installation and technology jobs because nearly all the state’s energy would be produced within the state.
According to the researchers’ calculations, New York’s 2030 power demand for all sectors (electricity, transportation, heating/cooling, industry) could be met by:
- 4,020 onshore 5-megawatt wind turbines
- 12,770 offshore 5-megawatt wind turbines
- 387 100-megawatt concentrated solar plants
- 828 50-megawatt photovoltaic power plants
- 5 million 5-kilowatt residential rooftop photovoltaic systems
- 500,000 100-kilowatt commercial/government rooftop photovoltaic systems
- 36 100-megawatt geothermal plants
- 1,910 0.75-megawatt wave devices
- 2,600 1-megawatt tidal turbines
- 7 1,300-megawatt hydroelectric power plants, of which most exist
According to the study, if New York switched to WWS, air pollution–related deaths would decline by about 4,000 annually and the state would save about $33 billion – 3 percent of the state’s gross domestic product – in related health costs every year. That savings alone would pay for the new power infrastructure needed within about 17 years, or about 10 years if annual electricity sales are accounted for. The study also estimates that resultant emissions decreases would reduce 2050 U.S. climate change costs – such as coastal erosion and extreme weather damage – by about $3.2 billion per year.
Currently, almost all of New York’s energy comes from imported oil, coal and gas. Under the plan that Jacobson and his fellow researchers advance, 40 percent of the state’s energy would come from local wind power, 38 percent from local solar and the remainder from a combination of hydroelectric, geothermal, tidal and wave energy.
All vehicles would run on battery-electric power and/or hydrogen fuel cells. Electricity-powered air- and ground-source heat pumps, geothermal heat pumps, heat exchangers and backup electric resistance heaters would replace natural gas and oil for home heating and air-conditioning. Air- and ground-source heat pump water heaters powered by electricity and solar hot water preheaters would provide hot water for homes. High temperatures for industrial processes would be obtained with electricity and hydrogen combustion.
“We must be ambitious if we want to promote energy independence and curb global warming,” said study co-author Robert Howarth, a Cornell University professor of ecology and environmental biology. “The economics of this plan make sense,” said Anthony Ingraffea, a Cornell engineering professor and a co-author of the study. “Now it is up to the political sphere.”
To ensure grid reliability, the plan outlines several methods to match renewable energy supply with demand and to smooth out the variability of WWS resources. These include a grid management system to shift times of demand to better match with timing of power supply, and “over-sizing” peak generation capacity to minimize times when available power is less than demand.
The study’s authors are developing similar plans for other states, including California and Washington. They took no funding from any interest group, company or government agency for this study.
Rob Jordan is the communications writer for the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment.
Mark Z. Jacobson, Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment
Wind is no longer the energy source of the future. It’s ready today.
By Edward Humes
BY LATE OCTOBER, THE GENTLY ROLLING FARMLANDof central Iowa is stripped bare, its fertile miles of cornfields shorn by harvesters and swept clean by the incessant prairie wind. “We just finished the harvest last night,” Randy Caviness says as he gazes fondly at his fields, his weary face as stubbly as his 3,200 acres of corn and soy. “There’s only one crop left.”
He turns his old Ford pickup onto a narrow Adair County farm road, then brakes and points. “There it is. We harvest that crop every day, year-round.”
A lone wind turbine dominates the landscape, a huge, gleaming, brilliantly white obelisk rising improbably from a drab flatland of browns and grays. It seems jarringly out of place and proportion, like a skyscraper amid mud huts. From base to blade tip, this 1.6-megawatt windmill stands 400 feet, taller than the Statue of Liberty’s torch. If it were a building, it would be the third highest in the state. The three-bladed fan at its summit spans an area the size of a football field. Despite a stiff breeze, those massive blades, each as long as three New York City subway cars, seem to rotate lazily, but Caviness says that’s just an optical illusion born of size and perspective—the blade tips reach speeds of 100 miles an hour.
“I’m amazed every time I see it,” the 54-year-old farmer says. “That one turbine powers a whole town. And more.”
Caviness is riding Iowa’s wave of wind power development, which is upending old notions about renewable energy. The eight turbines of the community wind project he launched deliver 12.8 megawatts to local communities and rural utilities, enough juice to power 6,000 Iowa homes. They also generate healthy annual returns of up to 16 percent on the $12,000 to $50,000 individual investments from 180 local farmers. At four cents a kilowatt-hour, that’s some of the cheapest electricity in the country, costing less than half of last year’s national average for all electricity sources, coal and gas included. No wonder, then, that Caviness has been courted by the office of Iowa governor Terry Branstad, the state congressional delegation (including Tea Party firebrand Steve King), and the White House, all of them captivated by a project that positions wind power not as an expensive novelty or environmental altruism but as a profitable, practical source of electricity, jobs, and energy independence.
“Everyone loves us,” Caviness says. “Our turbines make electricity cheaper than they can buy it elsewhere. Obviously we need to do more of this—in the state and the rest of the country.”
Such enticing economics are becoming the rule for new wind power projects. Caviness’s experience has been replicated throughout Iowa, which had 5,100 megawatts of wind power online at the end of 2012—nearly 10 percent of the U.S. wind power total of 60 gigawatts (including projects under construction). Of the state’s electricity-generating capacity, 20 percent is now wind-based. Were it a country, Iowa would be second only to perennial world wind leader Denmark, which generates 28 percent of its electricity from the breeze.
Iowa’s wind industry is not limited to small independents like Caviness. The state’s largest energy provider, Warren Buffett’s MidAmerican Energy, leads the nation’s utilities in wind power, which accounts for 31 percent of its generating capacity (up from zero percent in 2004). Company officials say that wind power has reduced MidAmerican’s dependence on more costly coal and lowered its greenhouse gas emissions per megawatt by 18 percent—all while keeping Iowa’s electric rates among the lowest in the country.
The combination of corporate investment, bipartisan support, fast-improving technology, robust state and federal subsidies, and, of course, strong winds has created a “wind renaissance” in Iowa over the past decade. Harold Prior, executive director of the Iowa Wind Energy Association, thinks it could serve as a national model. By 2010, Prior says, three turbine factories were operating in the state, 250 supplier and support businesses had set up shop, and community colleges were opening training centers for turbine technicians, who are in heavy demand worldwide and whose entry-level salaries can top $70,000. (See “Corporate Climbers,” page 54.) Officials at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, which has a wind lab with a gigantic working turbine nacelle and a towering windmill outside to help power the campus, say they can’t churn out technicians fast enough.
In a tough national economy, the wind industry currently supports an estimated 75,000 jobs, about 7,000 of them in Iowa, according to the American Wind Energy Association. An estimated 12 gigawatts of wind capacity were installed nationwide in 2012 alone, more than any other energy source, coal and gas included.
A congressional push to kill wind tax incentives clipped those gains with layoffs and plant closures, despite a last-minute reprieve—even as new data suggest that wind power is rapidly becoming competitive with fossil fuels. (See “Wind’s Close Call,”.)
“Wind has reached a critical mass here,” says David Osterberg, head of the Iowa Policy Project and a former legislator who helped start the state’s wind program in the 1980s. (Iowa was the first state to require power companies to provide a certain percentage of clean energy, years before California’s better-known green energy mandate.) “It is finally all coming together.”
FOR YEARS, SOLAR ENERGY HAS BEEN America’s renewable star, drawing most of the headlines, the big government research dollars, and showy projects in the Mojave Desert. Yet on cornfields, in cow pastures, and across rural ridgelines throughout the Midwest, the prairie states, and the West Coast, the amount of energy produced by wind farms has quietly leapfrogged solar and every other form of renewable energy except for old-school hydroelectric.
Since 2008, America’s wind energy capacity has doubled, making wind second only to natural gas in terms of new generators coming online in recent years.
That may come as a surprise to many who have seen wind turbines here and there since the early 1980s and have thought of them as oddities, rather than part of a competitive industry. Driving around California’s windy Tehachapi Mountains, where the U.S. wind industry was born, you can still see many of the older models—diminutive, 35- and 65-kilowatt windmills set atop Erector Set girders only 75 feet high. They spin away right next to 650-foot, 3-megawatt behemoths generating a thousand times more power. Hundreds of old-timers are still producing essentially free juice, their construction costs long ago amortized—running the city of Tehachapi’s waste plant, lighting up local homes, and still pumping kilowatts into the grid.
Until recently, wind barely registered as a national power source. The annual federal energy assessment by California’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory just lumped wind in with geothermal, solar, and every other renewable until 2003, when wind finally hit one-tenth of 1 percent of the U.S. power supply. After several years of explosive growth, it now accounts for 3 percent of U.S. electricity. In terms of raw wind power generated, the United States today is second only to China.
IN TERMS OF COST PER MEGAWATT, WIND NOW BEATS OTHER FORMS of energy handily, in part because of rapid gains in reliability and efficiency. General Electric claims that new turbines generate 60 to 80 percent more power than comparable 2002 models. These modern turbines rival not only renewables but nuclear, oil, and coal as well. And in the breezier parts of the country, wind is competitive with or outright beats natural gas, even though gas prices have fallen through the floor, thanks to the fracking revolution and the resulting glut of shale gas on the market.
Wind power, which has plenty of construction and maintenance costs but no fuel costs at all, now ranks among the cheapest energy sources, according to separate analyses by the U.S. Energy Information Agency and the global investment bank Lazard, whose annual Levelized Cost of Energy Comparison is an industry staple. And that’s not because of federal subsidies and credits. The latest figures show that when the effects of subsidies that all energy industries receive are stripped away, wind power beats everything else, natural gas included. This dramatic calculation has been largely left out of the nation’s energy debate, allowing the image of wind as expensive and impractical to persist.
Lazard found that the current unsubsidized cost of wind energy ranges from $48 to $95 per megawatt-hour. (The range reflects regional variations in costs and resources.) The next most affordable energy type is natural gas in a combined-cycle plant that recycles waste heat, which costs from $61 to $89. Coal comes in at $62 to $141. Another common type of natural gas generation, the simple industrial turbine system, isn’t even in the same ballpark, with an unsubsidized-cost range of $200 to $231 per megawatt-hour. Older U.S. gas generators, including many “peaking plants” (which are fired up when electricity demand is high), fall in that range. When subsidies are factored in, the cost of wind energy dips as low as $26 per megawatt-hour. The only better deal than wind, according to Lazard, is not to use power at all: Energy efficiency costs from zero to $50 for every megawatt-hour saved.
Five states—Iowa, Minnesota, Wyoming, and North and South Dakota—were generating 10 percent or more of their electricity from wind as of a year ago. Four others (Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, and Oregon) topped 8 percent. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, there is enough prime windy land—away from cities, suburbs, and environmentally sensitive areas—to produce all 4.1 million gigawatt-hours of power that the United States generated in 2011 nine times over.
In Iowa, a red state with a green streak (a vast majority of turbine-worthy land in the United States lies in red states; see “The Wind Is Red,” page 26), wind advocates remain hopeful that the recent downturn in manufacturing and subsequent job losses caused by the threatened expiration of the wind production tax credit will be short-lived.
Ken Midyett, 51, left a career in heating and cooling to sign up for Kirkwood Community College’s wind power training in Cedar Rapids. He, like many Iowans, was drawn by the promise of a growing industry offering high-paying jobs.
“I’d love to be grand and noble and say that I came because I wanted to join Al Gore’s crusade on global warming, but really, I was motivated by money,” Midyett says. “But the more I got into it, it just makes sense to me. It’s obvious: Green, renewable, domestic energy is the way to go for us as Americans. Isn’t that better than paying to build super nice hotels in Dubai?”
Edward Humes is a frequent contributor to Sierra and the author of Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair With Trash (Penguin, 2012).
CAPE VINCENT — Bringing a wind farm into the community was “one of the best things that ever happened” to their towns, according to some speakers at an informational meeting hosted by Voters for Wind Tuesday night.
Sheldon Town Supervisor John Knab said the town will levy no land tax for the third straight year in 2011 thanks to a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement with Sheldon Energy LLC, the developers of the 75-turbine High Sheldon Wind Farm in the rural town in Wyoming County.
During its planning stages, the project was met with opposition from some Sheldon residents who sued the town for various reasons — alleged conflict of interest, attempting to block their views and a potential decrease in property values — but the town won all five lawsuits brought against it and is hearing few complaints now that Sheldon Energy is paying the town more than $750,000 each year.
“We were sued for everything you can think of,” Mr. Knab told about 160 people in the audience Tuesday at Cape Vincent Recreation Park. “I guess now that there’s no town taxes, everyone’s happy.”
The town government is currently debt-free and has been able to fix public roads and historic buildings among other things with funds provided by the wind farm developer, he said.
Sandy LaBarre, secretary for the Ellenburg town supervisor who once served as the town’s highway superintendent, said Noble Environmental Power LLC’s wind park also sparked controversy at first but argued that “what comes forth in the end is totally worth it.”
Ms. LaBarre, once hired by Noble to be its head of transportation, said the benefits that the wind project brought to Chateaugay in Franklin County, and at Altona, Clinton and Ellenburg in Clinton County were “phenomenal.”
“It has added to our source of income. In some towns, we have no tax at all and in other towns we have cut down a third of the taxes. We have no property for sale. Nobody has got any property to sell because the tax rate is so low now, that you want to hang on to what you’ve got,” she said. “The properties are worth more than it has been.”
Lewis County attorney Richard J. Graham said there is no evidence to indicate that wind turbines affect property values and that the county government has “seen no impact one way or the other.”
Mr. Graham also said PILOT agreements with wind companies will not affect the amount of state aid school districts receive.
“Because these projects are tax-exempt, they’re not on the tax roll. So they’re not included in the district wealth,” he said.
Loren D. Lyndaker, a former Harrisburg Planning Board member who lives 1,170 feet away from a wind turbine himself, said the noise and flicker from the turbines are “really not that bad.”
“It’s like living along the shore. Many times, you just don’t notice them,” Mr. Lyndaker said, adding that ice build-up in the winter can cause noise but that “nobody’s bothered in the house.”
Her said he notices the flicker on his lawn in the fall but only for an hour or two each day.
Mr. Lyndaker also said he regrets voting for some wind-related issues while on the Planning Board, as he receives payments for living near the 195-turbine Maple Ridge Wind Farm, but added that he has abstained from voting on many resolutions related to the wind project due to the conflict of interest.
By JAEGUN LEE
Watertown Daily Times
January 3, 2013 — This week, Great Bay Wind continued its investment in Somerset County, Maryland with the opening of their new office on Somerset Avenue in Princess Anne, Maryland. The office will serve both as a focal point for the development efforts of the wind energy project as well as serve as a resource for Somerset County residents to learn more about the proposed Great Bay Wind Energy Center and its benefits to the County and State.
The new office is a significant step in Great Bay’s development effort and further testament to the company’s commitment to the community. Over the past three years, over 200 land owners have joined the proposed wind project and numerous groups – including the Town of Princess Anne, The Somerset County Economic Development Commission, The Princess Anne Chamber of Commerce, Somerset County Public School Superintendant, Somerset County Farm Bureau, the Somerset County Historical Commission, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, and the Delmarva Poultry Industry, Inc – have all expressed their support for the proposed wind project and the investment it will bring to the County.
The Great Bay Wind Energy Center will be a tremendous positive driving force for the county – providing jobs, economic growth, and new revenues that the County can use to invest in education, bridges, public safety, and to offset resident’s taxes. According to a recently published study by the University of Baltimore’s Jacob France Institute, Great Bay Wind is projected to bring over $200 million of new investment to Somerset County and create hundreds of new local jobs during construction, and provide over $44 million in new tax revenue to the County over the life of the project.
Adam Cohen, the project developer of Great Bay Wind, stated: “We are dedicated to working very closely with Somerset County and the State of Maryland. Our new office is another step towards fostering long-term and lasting relationships with the community.”
To learn more about the project please stop by the new office at 11674 Somerset Ave. just south of the Princess Anne Post Office, or visit www.greatbaywind.com
About The Great Bay Wind Energy Center: The Great Bay Wind Energy Center is a proposed 150-megawatt wind farm project currently under development that, when constructed, will utilize the naturally occurring and inexhaustible coastal winds in Somerset County, Maryland to produce clean, domestic electricity. The project is being developed by Pioneer Green Energy, LLC, a renewable energy development company whose principals have previously successfully developed over 2,700 megawatts of wind energy projects across the United States. To learn more about Pioneer Green, visit www.pioneergreen.com.
Virginia, U.S.A. – Wind and solar are relatively safe forms of energy, a feature that we tend to overlook until a disaster hits like the “superstorm” that disabled New York City’s power grid this week.
Unlike fossil fuel plants, they require no combustible fuels to generate electricity. And there is no danger that they will leak radiation as did the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear plant following last year’s tsunami in Japan.
Hence, the Northeast’s wind and solar farms evoked little public anxiety this week when Hurricane Sandy hit – unlike the nuclear and fossil fuel infrastructure. Safety officials kept a careful eye on the nuclear power plants and three were shut down in New Jersey and New York. And the smell of natural gas in any flooded areas drew quick attention from those who understood the danger.
These anxieties speak to a larger difference between renewables and conventional generation. Specifically, wind and solar operate under simpler systems that are prone to fewer problems, say renewable energy advocates.
Simple Design, Simple Operations
First of all, wind and solar do not need additional energy inputs to produce electricity or cool a reactor, said John Kourtoff, president and CEO of Toronto-based Trillium Power Wind. There is no need for natural gas, oil or coal to be excavated, transported and applied to the system. Instead, they produce electricity by taking advantage of a form of energy that is already available – wind and sun.
Second, they mimic nature in design, so they tend to be more resilient and withstand natural disasters better, he said.
“Renewables at their core are simple bio-mimicry based on nature. This simple and closed aspect makes them successful when storms and natural disasters happen, whether hurricanes, earthquakes, or tsunamis,” Kourtoff said.
He pointed out that last year’s tsunami in Japan devastated a nuclear plant, but wind turbinesnear the shore suffered no harm.
Wind and solar farms mimic a natural cell-like structure, so they are less likely than conventional power plants to succumb to a cascading failure, according to Kourtoff.
You lose a blade on a wind tower and you don’t lose the whole wind farm — just like you don’t kill a flower if a petal comes off. But for more complex energy systems, like fossil fuel and nuclear plants, failure in one part can bring down the entire production facility in a cascade, he said.
“You can put a spike through a solar panel yet the rest of the solar farm runs because it runs on a cellular-like model. If one cell is not operational, the others continue to operate,” he said.
He calls nuclear and fossil fuel plants industrial age technologies, and recent wind and solar, “Renewables 2.0,” designs that have grown simpler, with fewer moving parts and more efficient functioning.
Kourtoff also likened wind and solar design – at least in philosophy – to the products created by Steve Jobs, which emphasized simplicity, elegance and human appeal.
“Why do people like Apple products? They like them because of the simplicity of design. People see beauty in simplicity, in nature. You never hear anyone say, ‘Look at that beautiful nuclear plant.’ But if you see wind turbines moving gracefully in the water, they look beautiful,” Kourtoff said.
The simplicity also offers practical benefits.
“In terms of renewable energy, it can certainly help the grid come back quickly from weather situations like Hurricane Sandy,” said Carol Murphy, executive director, Alliance for Clean Energy New York. “It can take nuclear plants a week or more to come back online. Wind and solar, like other generators, do shut down during extreme weather conditions, but they can be back up and produce power quickly.”
How Did Renewables Weather the Storm?
Based on early assessments, renewable energy facilities seemed to fare well during Hurricane Sandy. ISO New England said it received no reports of any damage to wind or solar facilities from the storm.
Iberdrola Renewables, which owns wind farms in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Pennsylvania, reported few problems.
“We monitored the situation through the night and shut down sites as a precaution to protect equipment from extreme winds. Inspections today have revealed minimal damage so far. We are very satisfied with the response of our people and the performance of the sites through an exceptional event,” said Jan Johnson, Iberdrola Renewables’ communications director.
Long Island suffered some of the most severe destruction, wiping out service to most of the Long Island Power Authority’s 1.1 million customers. But the island’s 32-MW Long Island Solar Farm appears to have come through fairly well.
Nothing “catastrophic” happened at the facility, according to Matt Hartwig, spokesman for BP Alternative Energy, which operates the solar farm. “They are beginning their assessment, which initially shows damage to the fence around the facility as well as some module damage, the extent of which is not yet known.”
New York, Connecticut and other hard hit areas happen to be in various stages of devising long-term energy plans. We’ll soon see if Hurricane Sandy – and lessons learned about renewable energy performance in storms – will add a new dimension to policy decisions about the future role of wind and solar.
Renewable Energy World.com
November 1, 2012
So here we are in the final two months of a U.S. general election, and energy has become a “wedge issue,” separating the two candidates. Mitt Romney’s position is that he will remove the subsidies on clean energy and help the oil and gas industry make the U.S. energy independent by 2020. The president’s position is that “all of the above” energy sources are needed, including continuing support for clean energy.
Much renewable energy coverage focuses on the issue of cost – how much more it costs than conventional energy. On Sept.10, the Wall Street Journal carried an op-ed with the headline: Corporate Cronyism Harms America, by Charles Koch (I know, you couldn’t make it up). In it, he states that “the government is pushing up energy prices for all of us – five times as much in the case of wind-generated electricity.”
It is an extraordinary claim, with no evidence supplied to support it. Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s regular levelized cost calculations – based on real data from folk who build clean energy projects – show that wind energy is in many cases competitive with new-build coal capacity. Wind is also nearly competitive with new-build gas capacity if you use a gas price rising quickly to $4 and then on $6 per million British thermal units, as the futures curve suggests you should, rather than the current spot price of $3. In the Brazilian energy tenders, we saw unsubsidized wind bid in at lower prices than any other energy source, and there are project developers in Mexico looking to build wind farms with no subsidy.
In March 2011, Danish economist Bjorn Lomborg wrote in USA Today that solar PV was 10 times as expensive as fossil-based power. By February this year he had retreated to claiming solar was just four times as expensive. The truth is that in more and more markets rooftop solar power is cheaper than daytime retail energy prices. In Spain and other countries a number of project developers are looking to develop solar projects without subsidies. Solar PV is cheaper than kerosene for lighting, and solar is cheaper than oil and diesel for power generation anywhere in the sub-belt.
In the U.K., there is an increasingly desperate campaign, funded and led by Donald Trump, to claim that renewable energy – and wind power in particular – is driving up utility bills, despite government statistics that show two thirds of the increase is due to increases in gas prices.
Levelized costs are not the whole picture. As the cost of photovoltaic modules, wind turbines, batteries and all other clean energy equipment has tumbled over the past few years, advocates of fossil fuels have started to highlight the cost of intermittency, either in terms of additional back-up or grid capacity required, again in many cases making outlandishly inflated claims.
Clean energy advocates, for their part – when not distracted by a relatively small $4 billion per annum of tax breaks for the fossil fuel industry – have done their best to highlight the externality costs of fossil fuels. These are costs which are not borne by the fossil fuel producers or their clients, but by society at large. I have written elsewhere about the Rand Corporation estimate that U.S. taxpayers spend $83 billion per annum to police the Straits of Hormuz, the academic finding that the health costs of coal-fired generation in the U.S. might be as high as 10 cents per kilowatt-hour. These sorts of figures are substantial enough to shift the economics in favor of clean energy entirely.
Energy is shaping up to be one of the key battlegrounds of this presidential campaign, and this is to be welcomed. At Bloomberg New Energy Finance, we have always done what we could to promote transparent, fact-driven analysis. Let companies and countries make whatever choices they need, let the technology chips fall where they may, only once there has been a well-informed discussion about the different options.
We are not quite there yet in the U.S. Presidential debate. For one thing climate change has been surreally absent so far, despite this year’s unnatural heat-wave. How many sleepless nights have the president’s pollsters had, trying to work out whether a clear statement on climate change would break his way or stall his progress in the polls? The other critical issue missing from the U.S. presidential election battle is water – particularly as U.S. Drought Monitor reports that nearly two thirds of the nation is now suffering from moderate to exceptional drought conditions.
Coal, gas and nuclear power generation all use large amounts of water. Of these, nuclear is the thirstiest – though many plants are on the coast, using seawater rather than fresh water. Our analysts reckon that a U.S. combined-cycle gas turbine plant of around 450 megawatts could consume 74 million cubic metres of water over its lifetime, and a coal-fired power station of 1.3 gigawatts no less than 1.4 billion cubic meters. The latter figure is seven times the annual water consumption of Paris.
By contrast, wind and PV generation use very little water. The renewable technologies that do need a drink are solar thermal electricity generation, biomass and waste-to-energy, geothermal and – in a more direct sense – hydro-electric.
Planners of thermal energy plants have two things to worry about. One is that droughts and rising waterway temperatures could hit generation, causing shutdowns and power outages for consumers. In 2003, during its famously lethal heat wave, France had to cut back 16 gigawatts of thermal production capacity. In April 2010, Maharashtra State Power Generation shut down 90 percent of its 2.3-gigawatt power station in Chandrapur, about 520 miles east of Mumbai, after low rainfall caused water levels to plummet at the Erai dam. In August of this year, the Millstone nuclear plant in Waterford, Connecticut, had to shut down one of its two reactors because its seawater cooling intake was too warm. Other U.S. plants have, this summer, had to operate at lower power outputs or receive special waivers to operate at temperatures above what their normal safety rating would allow.
The other water-related risk to the economics of thermal capacity is that water pricing becomes, in the fullness of time, rational. Water is generally a highly subsidized commodity meaning consumers are today largely insulated from the true impact that supply and demand could have on pricing. Were that to change, and were prices allowed to respond to power sector demand, they would inevitably rise, causing pain to consumers while piling extra costs onto the thermal power plants themselves.
Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s water team has been working on these issues for nearly two years. In Europe we found that the power sector accounts for 44 percent of total water withdrawals in the region, and 8 percent of consumption – mainly evaporation in cooling towers. China already faces a water shortage of 40 billion cubic meters per year, yet coal-fired generation is expected to increase 43 percent by 2020. It already accounts for around 60 percent of total industrial water demand. Peter Evans, director for global strategy and planning at General Electric Co., was quoted at a Tokyo conference saying that utilities in Asia are “assuming the water is there. They actually will not be able to build as many coal plants as the projections suggest.”
Last December, Dipuo Peters, energy minister of South Africa, announced preferred bidders for more than 2 gigawatts of solar and wind capacity, saying that the move was a “demonstration of our departure from being associated with greenhouse gas emissions, high water usage and other environmental degradation.” In Saudi Arabia, one of the main drivers of surging electricity demand is desalination – itself very energy intensive. The 9 gigawatts of wind being developed by Saudi Arabia as part of its strategy up until 2030 will solely be dedicated to powering desalination. So renewables are being used to provide water, but also to save it – because the alternative would be more water-thirsty generation options such as oil or gas, or even nuclear.
There are signs that policy-makers are increasingly prepared to see water use by the energy sector as something that should incur an appropriate cost. The European Union is currently undertaking a review of its water policy goals as part of its Blueprint to Safeguard Europe’s Waters. Greater enforcement of metering and more sophisticated tariffs that better recognize the economic worth of water resources are expected to be an outcome of this process.
Our Research Note, Renewables In Europe Rain On Water Scarcity’s Parade, published late last month, found that the chances of the power sector causing a water depletion crisis in Europe was receding – in part because of the increase in the penetration of renewable energy. It showed that water consumption by Germany’s power sector could fall by nearly half by 2030 because of the use of solar and wind.
Back in the U.S., the energy sector’s use of water looks set to soar despite the deployment of renewable energy, and that is because of non-conventional gas. While shale gas has become a live political issue in the U.S., coverage has almost purely focused on the issues of fugitive emissions, ground-water contamination, and whether the process should be regulated at a federal or state level.
What has not been debated is the actual consumption of water. Chesapeake Energy Corp. reports that drilling a deep shale gas well requires between 65,000 and 600,000 gallons of water, but the fracking process requires an average of an additional 4.5 million gallons to be injected per well at high pressure to break up the rock. Multiply this by the hundreds of thousands of fracked wells which will be required to meet increased gas demand in the coming decades, and that’s a lot of water. Some may be reusable, as long as the salinity is not too high, while some may require a significant amount of wastewater treatment.
Supporters of fracking like to compare its water use with that of corn ethanol – not exactly a poster child for the rational, fact-driven deployment of clean energy. The real comparison should be between gas-fired generation based on fracking, and wind or PV. On that count, the water factor comes down strongly in favor of renewable energy.
Not surprisingly, the energy sector incumbents are fighting back. As data on the increasing competitiveness of clean energy – along with concerns about job losses in the wind industry if the Production Tax Credit is allowed to expire – has helped it make gains in the presidential ground battle, so the fossil fuel industry has called in massive air strikes. By the middle of September, the New York Times reports, an estimated $153 million had been spent on television ads promoting coal, oil and gas, compared to just $41 million on clean energy. When you have a system in place which transfers hundreds of billions of dollars per annum of costs from you and your clients to the taxpayer and the general public, you do whatever it takes protect it.
As they work the corridors of power, promoting unfettered reliance on coal, gas, oil and nuclear power, defenders of the status quo may want to bear in mind the words of W. H. Auden: “Thousands have lived without love, not one without water.”
By Michael Liebreich
Bloomberg New Energy Finance