News roundup: The low cost of clean energy, an ambitious project for Wyoming and California, and AWEA's Rob Gramlich on Sierra Club Radio

10 February 2014 by Peebles Squire Peebles Squire

With the new week comes more great wind power news. Renewable prices show their competitiveness, a new Wyoming wind project aims to send power all the way to California, and Sierra Club Radio hosts AWEA’s Rob Gramlich for a talk on the future of wind power.

As energy economist Steven B. Smiley writes this week in the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, renewable energy sources like wind and solar power are helping keep electricity affordable for consumers:

  • With recent cost declines, [wind and solar power] are the lowest cost new energy sources.
  • The cost advantage widens considering “apples to apples” financing, environmental impacts, price stability and energy security -- and in 20 years, their fuel price will still be zero. Energy efficiencies from wind and solar, “the measure of how much energy you can capture, transform and deliver from the available fuel source,” continue to increase. Solar cells, which require no new transmission lines, are approaching 20 percent efficiency, close to the ability of a coal-fired plant to deliver electricity to your home electric meter. At some wind speeds, wind turbines operate well over 40 percent efficiency approaching the “Betz limit” of 59 percent.
  • For fracking to be financially viable, natural gas wholesale prices must go up. If natural gas prices go up, often with supply bottlenecks during cold times, the wind and solar power advantage increases further.
  • Some argue that the integration and energy storage challenges with renewable energy limit the potential utilization of these intermittent fuels. But the integration and storage of renewables is no more challenging than all the other energy sources. Each day we integrate dozens of technologies into the electric grid with consumption and generation constantly changing hour by hour.

As California moves to counter its contribution to climate change, a new project aims to harvest power from Wyoming winds and send it southwest:

  • [Bill] Miller, a wiry man who spent much of his career in the oil and gas business, is in charge of building a massive wind farm on a cattle ranch owned by Anschutz Corp., better known in Los Angeles as co-owner of Staples Center. It would produce as much power as three nuclear reactors, making it the largest wind-generation facility in the nation, if not the world.
  • The Anschutz sales pitch is simple: Its power will be plentiful, reliable and cheap, not to mention green — just what California needs as it faces an era of escalating electricity prices.
  • "It is understandable that California wants to build their own generation facilities, but it makes a lot of sense for California rate payers to consider Wyoming power," said Loyd Drain, executive director of the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority. "We are not talking about Wyoming wins and California loses."

Sierra Club Radio hosted Rob Gramlich, AWEA Senior Vice President of Public Policy, for a conversation on the latest news in American wind power:

  • Check out this week’s show here [mp3].
  • AWEA’s Rob Gramlich discusses the present and future of wind power with radio host Orli Cotel, including what states currently obtain the most energy from wind power, the jobs and manufacturing wind supports now and into the future, and the legislative climate in Washington and its implications for the PTC.

Don’t forget! This week, AWEA wants you to tell us why you love wind power!

Sources:

Steven B. Smiley, “Wind and solar energy beats fracking.” The Plain Dealer. 8 February 2014.

Ralph Vartabedian, “Firm seeks to harness Wyoming's wind energy for California.” Los Angeles Times. 8 February 2014.

Orli Cortel, “Sierra Club Radio.” Sierra Club. 8 February 2014.