Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Wind Energy News: China vs. U.S. edition

Sorry I have let this news roundup slip for so long. But the latest top news items serve to put the U.S. approach to political economy in stark contrast to China's approach. While China tries to promote projects that will actually build renewable energy sources, the U.S. insists on sticking to the "neo-liberal" Shock Doctrine economic policies of free trade and free markets. These policies have clearly failed: after four decades of widespread and bipartisan agreement that the U.S. should achieve energy independence, the U.S. today is more dependent than ever on foreign energy sources. Unfortunately, in this latest blast of news, China has submitted to some of the U.S.'s insane demands.

China agrees to roll back incentives for wind-power sector
The Chinese government has reportedly decided to stop giving incentives ranging from $6 million to $22 million to wind-power manufacturers that use locally made materials rather than imports. The decision comes seven months after a complaint lodged by the United Steelworkers regarding China's incentive program for wind power led to an investigation by U.S. trade officials. "This outcome helps ensure fairness for American clean-technology companies and workers," said U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk. USA TODAY (6/7)

China's wind-energy sector bracing for tougher rules, insiders say
After five years of rapid growth, China's wind-energy industry may be due for an adjustment after the government announced plans to impose new restrictions on wind-turbine manufacturers, insiders said. The new standard would, among other things, require that all wind turbines be equipped with low-voltage ride-through capability to enhance grid reliability. The new rules "will put considerable pressure on wind-turbine makers and wind-farm operators to upgrade China's 34,000 wind turbines," said Li Yinghua, an official of the security regulatory bureau under the State Electricity Regulatory Commission. People's Daily (China) (6/3)

Report: China is most attractive nation for renewable-energy projects
The U.S. fell further behind China as the most attractive destination for renewable-energy investments, according to Ernst & Young's quarterly Renewable Energy Country Attractiveness Index. China scored 72 points in the index, up from 71 in the previous quarter, while the U.S. received 67 points. "This is principally due to China diversifying its renewables portfolio through an increased focus on offshore wind and concentrated solar power," Ernst & Young said. Bloomberg (5/25)

House subpanel approves bill with 27% renewables spending cut
The House Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee approved a plan that would reduce federal spending on renewable energy by 27%, to $1.3 billion, or $1.9 billion below President Barack Obama's proposed budget. "The bill flies in the face of the State of the Union, where President Obama called for a turn to green energy to create jobs," said Marchant Wentworth, deputy legislative director for the Union of Concerned Scientists. The Hill/E2 Wire blog (6/2)

Germany's wind-energy standards may not benefit China, group says
Germany's plan to shut down its nuclear plants by 2022 will likely boost demand for renewable-energy systems and open up the German market, analysts said. However, a spokesman for the German wind-energy group BWE said the country's high reliability requirements for wind turbines will keep out Chinese products. "German companies have very high quality standards and offer comprehensive maintenance services, both of which are still lacking among Chinese competitors," said Alexander Sewohl. Deutsche Welle (Germany) (6/6)

The example of Germany is interesting, because in the Washington Post yesterday, opinion-molder Charles Lane dismisses that country's recent commitment to weening itself off nuclear power:
Yes, Germans tell pollsters now that they’d be willing to pay a bit extra on their electric bills to get rid of nukes. But few of them have any idea what it’s really going to cost — not just in higher household bills, but lost jobs and competitiveness in German industry — to replace nearly a quarter of the nation’s electric-power capacity in a little more than a decade. A recent J.P. Morgan analysis notes that solar, wind and hydroelectric can only fill part of the gap, and even that will require “massive grid infrastructure investment.”
What Lane misses is the crux of the problem: whether or not private banks like J.P. Morgan Chase are willing to fund such radical programs. Clearly, moving toward renewable energy sources is something societies need to do. But if the institutions set up to create and allocate money and credit in an economy are not willing to fund what society clearly needs. then what is the more sane response: to ignore society's
needs because the banksters do not see enough profit opportunities? Or to reform or replace those institutions so that society's needs are met?

In other wind energy news:

Ill. college's wind-energy program is drawing interest, official says
The wind-energy program at Danville Area Community College in Illinois is becoming an attractive option for students and employers. "It has been very popular," said Dave Kietzmann, vice president of instruction and student services at the college. "Students are beginning to graduate, and a number of students have received job offers." Commercial-News (Danville, Ill.) (6/6)

U.S., Chinese wind-turbine makers compete for U.S. market share
U.S. wind-turbine makers are raising concerns that declining manufacturing costs in China mean that it may soon be economical to ship more turbine parts to the U.S. Lisa Frantzis, managing director of the Renewable and Distributed Energy unit at Navigant, said she believes that the quality of Chinese products is untested on the U.S. market. At least one major Chinese turbine maker, Goldwind, is setting up shop in Illinois and providing "a needed injection of jobs, activity and capital," company spokesman Colin Mahoney said. The Huffington Post (6/3)

UNIDO chief calls for 30% renewable-energy commitment by 2030
Countries must commit to obtaining at least 30% of their energy requirements from renewable sources by 2030 to make an impact on the U.N.'s greenhouse-gas reduction and poverty-alleviation targets, according to Kandeh Yumkella, director general of the U.N. Industrial Development Organization. As part of efforts to move toward a low-carbon economy, the U.N. is launching a campaign to generate up to $40 billion in public-private investments by the middle of next year to fund renewable-energy projects. "Without good public-private platforms we can't do this," Yumkella said. Reuters (6/2)

Companies race to develop high-altitude wind-energy systems
Sky WindPower, Altaeros Energies and Makani Power are each working to harness high-altitude winds for power generation. There is "not a doubt anymore" that high-altitude winds will be used to produce electricity, said Cristina Archer, a scientist at the California State University, Chico. But Fort Felker, director of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory's National Wind Technology Center, said high-altitude wind-energy technologies are at least a decade away from reaching the market. MSNBC/The Associated Press (6/2)

Transmission line would carry Kansas wind power to consumers
Clean Line Energy Partners is planning to develop a $1.7 billion high-voltage transmission line that would carry wind power from Kansas to southeastern Missouri. The Grain Belt Express power line would have the capacity to handle 3,500 megawatts, or enough power to supply 3.5 million households. St. Louis Post-Dispatch (5/29)

Sinovel unveils a prototype 6-megawatt wind turbine
Sinovel Wind Group rolled out a prototype 6-megawatt wind turbine that could be used in land-based, offshore or intertidal wind farms. Sinovel's 6-MW wind turbine is expected to speed up the development of China's offshore wind-power industry. (China) (5/30)

Analysts: Vestas might edge Siemens in offshore-wind market
Siemens and Vestas Wind Systems are offering different types of wind turbines for the offshore-wind market, which the U.K. Carbon Trust said may be worth $54.38 billion by 2020. Siemens' "direct-drive" gearless turbines are designed for minimal maintenance, but their unproven technology could hamper sales, analysts said. Vestas' traditional turbine design might be more acceptable to risk-averse investors, analysts added. San Francisco Chronicle/Bloomberg (5/26)

AWEA: U.S. wind sector accounts for 75,000 jobs, over 400 factories
The U.S. wind-power industry is directly responsible for 75,000 jobs and over 400 manufacturing operations in 43 states, according to the American Wind Energy Association. Wind turbines deployed in the U.S. in 2010 had 50% domestic content, and that is likely to increase if the industry receives consistent policies from Congress and the federal government, AWEA added. CleanTechnica (5/25)

Venture capitalists continue to bet on clean-tech projects
Clean-technology projects are continuing to attract venture capital as global events, including the nuclear crisis in Japan, fuel greater interest in low-carbon technologies such as wind power and electric cars, analysts and insiders said. Venture capital firms provided $4.9 billion to clean-tech projects in 2010, up 40% from 2009, Cleantech Group said. "This is an exciting time for clean tech," said Tim Keating, CEO of Keating Capital. USA TODAY (5/26)

GE develops combined-cycle turbine for clean-energy market
General Electric developed a turbine powered by gas that maintains power production when wind and solar sources are affected by weather. This combined-cycle turbine technology was a three-year, $500 million research endeavor and is part of the company's push to increase sales of energy-efficient equipment. Bloomberg (5/25)

Dow Chemical unit unveils wind-blade adhesives facility in Ga.
Dow Formulated Systems has completed the construction of a production plant in Roberta, Ga., that will manufacture epoxy adhesives for the blades of wind turbines. "Specialized properties are needed for adhesive mixing and application during the fabrication process, and cured adhesives must exhibit high levels of toughness and durability to withstand the extreme loads a wind-turbine blade is subjected to throughout its service life," said Jean-Luc Guillaume, global head of the Dow wind-energy unit. (5/24)

Broadwind unit clinches deal for gearbox upgrade at NREL facility
Brad Foote Gear Works, a unit of Broadwind Energy, secured a $1.37 million contract to develop a 5.8-megawatt gearbox for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory's new dynamometer at the National Wind Technology Center. Brad Foote Gear Works is expected to deliver the gearbox in the fall. The upgrading of the NWTC's dynamometer facility is scheduled for completion in the spring of 2012. (5/24)