Weekly Clean Energy Roundup:March 21, 2007

News and Events

DOE Sets Spending Plan for $1.474 Billion in New EERE Funds

DOE released its spending plan last week for funds appropriated by last month’s continuing resolution, which included $1.474 billion for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). Compared to the appropriations for fiscal year (FY) 2006, DOE’s spending plan will more than double the funding for EERE’s programs in hydrogen technology, solar energy, and biomass and biorefinery systems research and development. The plan also increases funding for research in wind energy and energy efficiency technologies for vehicles, buildings, and industries. DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory fares well under the plan, garnering $83 million to build a new integrated biorefinery research facility and a research support facility, along with more than $24 million for operation and maintenance of its existing facilities. Other programs that will see funding increases under the new plan are the Federal Energy Management Program, the State Energy Program, and the International Renewable Energy Program.

In mid-February, Congress passed and President Bush signed a bill that will provide continued funding for the federal government for the remainder of fiscal year (FY) 2007, which concludes at the end of September. Such “continuing resolutions” are enacted in lieu of the traditional budgetary process. The bill set a one-month deadline for DOE to report back to Congress with its spending plan. According to DOE, the spending plan will also allow the DOE Office of Science to award funding for three bioenergy research centers. See the DOE press release, pages 5 and 6 of the DOE spending plan (PDF 62 KB), and for background, an article on the continuing resolution from the February 21st edition of the EERE Network News.

DOE Selects Missouri Cooperative as Wind Cooperative of the Year

DOE, in partnership with the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) and the Cooperative Research Network, announced last week that they have selected the Associated Electric Cooperative, Inc. (AECI) of Springfield, Missouri, as the recipient of the 2006 Wind Cooperative of the Year Award. The award, presented at the NRECA’s TechAdvantage 2007 Conference and Expo in Las Vegas, recognizes AECI for leadership, demonstrated success, and innovation in its wind power program. AECI is the first to bring utility-scale wind power to Missouri through its three 50-megawatt wind projects, which are expected to be operational by the end of 2007. The cooperative serves six generation and transmission cooperatives and 51 electric distribution cooperatives in Missouri, Oklahoma, and Iowa.

Also recognized at the conference was the Alaska Village Electric Cooperative, which has 990 kilowatts of installed wind power capacity, spread across 52 generating facilities that serve 52 small native villages in rural western Alaska. See the DOE press release, the AECI Web site, and the Alaska Village Electric Cooperative Web site.

Growing U.S. Wind Industry Yields Two New Wind Blade Factories

The rapid growth of wind power in the United States has resulted in two new factories to manufacture wind turbine blades. Knight & Carver opened its wind blade manufacturing and repair facility in Howard, South Dakota, on March 6th. The new facility will serve as the wind blade headquarters for Knight & Carver, which was previously better known for building yachts. The 26,000-square-foot facility will employ as many as 25 full-time employees in 2007, with plans to expand to a 25-person workforce within two years. See the Knight & Carver press release.

Meanwhile, Vestas announced on Tuesday that it has decided to build a wind blade factory in Windsor, Colorado. The new $60 million facility, located between Fort Collins and Greeley, will have a production capacity of 1,200 blades per year and will employ about 400 people. The Danish company bills itself as the leading supplier of wind power technology in the world, and has already installed more than 9,300 wind turbines in the United States. In early March, Vestas received an order for eight of its 3-megawatt wind turbines, which will be installed at the Tehachapi Pass in Southern California as part of an effort to install 1,500 megawatts of wind power there. Construction on the new blade factory will begin soon, and the factory will start producing wind turbine blades in early 2008. See the Vestas press releases from March 6th (PDF 23 KB) and March 20th (PDF 28 KB).

The new wind blade manufacturing plants and the focus on larger wind turbines in the United States highlight the importance of DOE’s efforts to establish a new facility for testing large wind turbine blades. DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy announced on March 9th that the location for the new facility has been
narrowed to either Texas or Massachusetts. The finalist will be named in mid-2007 and awarded a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with NREL, under which DOE and NREL will provide $2 million in capital equipment to the blade test facility in addition to technical assistance. The facility will cost as much as $12 million and will be able to test wind turbine blades that are as much as 230 feet in length. See the
announcement on the NREL Web site.

E.ON and Lunar Energy to Build 8-Megawatt Tidal Power Project

E.ON and Lunar Energy announced last week that they will build an 8-megawatt tidal stream power station off the west coast of the United Kingdom (UK). If built, the facility will be one of the largest of its kind in the world. E.ON is one of the largest renewable power generators in the UK, while Lunar Energy has worked with Rotech Engineering Ltd. to develop the patented Rotech Tidal Turbine, which will be employed in the new facility. The companies are currently reviewing a short list of possible sites for the new facility, which will consist of an array of turbines mounted on the ocean floor. E.ON anticipates that the plant will begin operation by 2010. See the press releases from E.ON and Lunar Energy and the Rotech Engineering Web site.

Back in the United States, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) is exploring the possibility of installing wave energy generators off the coast of Mendocino and Humboldt counties in northern California. The utility has filed two preliminary permit applications with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to secure the rights for the projects. PG&E envisions its “WaveConnect” projects as sites where multiple companies could deploy their wave energy conversion devices, allowing a direct comparison of the cost and performance of the devices. According to the utility, the projects could produce up to 40 megawatts of power. See the PG&E press release.

GM Introduces the 2007 Saturn Aura Green Line Hybrid

The Saturn division of General Motors Corporation (GM) started selling a mid-size sedan hybrid, the 2007 Saturn Aura Green Line, on Monday. The company is promoting the vehicle as the lowest-priced hybrid on the market, with a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $22,695. According to Saturn, the vehicle is now rolling off the assembly line at the General Motors Fairfax Plant in Kansas City, Kansas, and is starting to arrive at Saturn dealers. The new hybrid mates an electric motor and generator to a 2.4-liter engine to achieve an estimated fuel economy of 28 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 35 mpg on the highway, which represents an improvement of up to 30 percent relative to the non-hybrid Aura XE. The U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced on Monday that the 2007 Saturn Aura Green Line is eligible for a tax credit of $1,300. See the March 19th press releases from GM and the IRS and see the Aura Green Line on the Saturn “Future Vehicles” Web page.

Tragedy Mars Circumnavigation Attempt by Biodiesel-Fueled Boat

An attempt to circle the world in record time using only biodiesel fuel met with tragedy on Sunday, as the Earthrace trimaran collided with a fishing boat off the coast of Guatemala. According to a press release on Discovery Communications’ Turbo Web site, the collision left one fisherman apparently drowned, while another fisherman was injured. According to a blog from the ground crew, the ship’s crew is being held at a naval base near San Jose, Guatemala, about 50 miles west of the border with El Salvador, while the incident is investigated. The Earthrace Web site did not yet say if the crew intends to cancel the race attempt. See the Turbo Web site press release, the blog from Ground Crew Engineer Scott Fratcher, and the current location of the boat, provided by Daestra New Zealand Ltd.

The attempt to break the record faced challenges from the start, when bad props slowed the boat on its approach to Panama. By late Thursday, the Earthrace crew had managed to order new propellers, get them delivered to Panama, and install them quickly enough to resume the record attempt. The crew was lucky in that the new props matched the shaft speed almost perfectly, giving the boat the ability to resume its trip at full speed. After passing through the Panama Canal, however, one of the ship’s engines started to leak oil, causing the crew to reduce speed by half. See the Earthrace press releases and the blogs from Fratcher and Captain Pete Bethune.


Kevin Eber is the Editor of EREE Network News, a weekly publication of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE).

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