For Minnesota utility, wind backed by hydro is ‘holy grail’

(Midwest Energy News, December 3, 2013)—Norway has been called the “battery” of northern Europe because of its huge potential to store energy in its hydro power facilities, which produce virtually all of the country’s electricity.

When generation ramps up at Danish wind farms, Norway can slow production at its hydro facilities, storing water in reservoirs to be released later when electricity is in shorter supply.

As much as 40 percent of Danish wind power is “stored” like this behind Norwegian hydro dams, according to a 2012 paper by Norwegian energy economist Johannes Mauritzen.

In northern Minnesota, an electric utility is proposing a 500 kV, cross-border transmission line that would let it tap Canadian hydropower under a similar arrangement.

Minnesota Power says the Great Northern Transmission Line would allow it to balance intermittent power from its North Dakota wind farms with dispatchable power from Manitoba hydro facilities.

“I think we here at Minnesota Power have coupled together what I like to call the holy grail of renewable resources,” said Dave McMillan, the utility’s executive vice president. Continue reading “For Minnesota utility, wind backed by hydro is ‘holy grail’”

Report: Stable policy key to Great Lakes offshore wind jobs

(Midwest Energy News, November 20, 2013)—Offshore wind energy development in the Great Lakes could create thousands of manufacturing and construction jobs in the region — if lawmakers get the policy right.

A new report by an Illinois economist concludes that the economic impact of offshore wind farms in the Great Lakes greatly depends on whether the industry can grow at a steady pace.

Offshore wind developers are more likely to open regional offices and manufacturing facilities if they view the Great Lakes as an opportunity for sustained, long-term growth, it says.

But if incentives and permitting turn out to be as choppy as Lake Superior during a wind storm, those companies would probably import parts and expertise from elsewhere instead.

“The key to making sure those jobs reside here is to have stable policy that creates a steady stream of build out. That’s the big takeaway,” said David Loomis, an economics professor at Illinois State University. Continue reading “Report: Stable policy key to Great Lakes offshore wind jobs”

Wisconsin bill would grant wide latitude to sue wind farms

(Midwest Energy News, November 13, 2013)—Wisconsin legislators are scheduled to take up a bill next week that would make it easier for people to sue for perceived health symptoms and property value impacts they attribute to wind turbines.

Under the proposal, anyone living within 1.5 miles of a wind turbine could sue for damages related to physical or emotional suffering, loss of property value, moving expenses, or lost profits, and the wind farm owner or operator would be forced to pick up the tab for the plaintiffs’ attorney fees.

It would also prohibit as a defense the fact that a project has already been legally permitted to operate by the state or a local government.

Opponents say the bill (SB167), if passed, would effectively put an end to wind development in Wisconsin and potentially drive up electricity rates in the state.

“The real intention of this is to kill wind [energy] in Wisconsin, and I would say it would do that,” said Joe Sullivan, regional policy manager for Wind on the Wires, a nonprofit that advocates for policies that support wind energy and transmission development. Continue reading “Wisconsin bill would grant wide latitude to sue wind farms”

New transmission line would ease Iowa wind bottleneck

(Midwest Energy News, December 5, 2011)—Wind data is collected, turbine positions are mapped, and landowner agreements are signed. Even the financing is lined up.

And yet plans for the NorthStar Wind Farms in north central Iowa sit on the shelf six years after they were proposed because the area’s electricity grid can’t carry any additional power sources.

“Transmission has been the bottleneck,” said Jack Levi, co-chair of the project’s developer, National Wind. “If we had transmission tomorrow, we could start construction within six months.”

Wind developers like Levi finally see help on the horizon.

The proposed Rock Island Clean Line would be a 500-mile transmission expressway between northwestern Iowa and the Chicago area, where it could feed into a regional electricity grid that extends from Illinois to the Jersey Shore.

The Houston, Texas, company that’s seeking to build the project has already started submitting applications to state and federal regulators. It’s holding a series of landowner open house meetings this week as it works to narrow down its final route. Continue reading “New transmission line would ease Iowa wind bottleneck”