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News roundup: Illinois towns embrace renewables, Texas wind boosts revenues, and a taller tower for stronger wind

News roundup: Illinois towns embrace renewables, Texas wind boosts revenues, and a taller tower for stronger wind

We start this week with how an Illinois initiative is helping folks get clean energy, how a Texas wind project’s tax revenues make a community-wide return on investment, and how a new, taller tower will enable turbines to capture more wind.

A program established in 2009 is driving an Illinois renewables boom, with wind energy helping to lead the way:

  • Since 2013, more than 90 Illinois towns and cities – representing 1.7 million people – have made the switch to 100% renewable electricity using Community Choice Aggregation (CCA).
  • Established in the state in 2009, CCA works a little like some of the recent electricity switching initiatives in Australia; helping local communities to pool their electricity purchasing power. This allows areas to then choose an electricity supplier; not only driving down the price of power, but also the type of energy supplied.
  • The Illinois experience has seen demand for energy sources such as wind and solar increase by over 6 terawatt hours (TWh) – enough to take 250,000 homes entirely off fossil fuel generated electricity.
  • "Illinois is showing what can happen when change at the local level is harnessed to create a collective movement, and I hope other states take notice;" said Senator Dick Durbin.

In Texas, early numbers on community-funded wind farm are looking good for one county’s coffers:

  • Making an initial appearance before county commissioners on Friday to outline a proposed tax abatement agreement for Hale Community Energy LLC, local attorney Lanny Voss said the wind energy project could soon become one of Hale County’s largest taxpayers.
  • As part of a reinvestment zone, the project will qualify for 100 percent tax abatements for 10 years, before going on the tax rolls at a value of $100,000 per megawatt production capacity. Despite the proposed tax abatement, the project will pay the county $300,000 annually in “pilot payments,” based on a capacity of 300 megawatts.
  • Price added that the wind farm project is truly a community effort with about 98 percent of the initial $5 million investment raised locally. “Everybody has skin in this game. We’re all each other’s friends and neighbors.”

A new tower from Vestas has been designed from the ground up to take advantage of those hard-to-reach breezes, as high as 140 meters:

  • Wind energy company Vestas has launched their new Large Diameter Steel Tower, which increases the tower height of 2 MW turbines to over 140 meters, which should boost annual energy production on low wind sites by up to 8%.
  • As Vestas explains, “on a typical site with a mean wind speed of 6.5m/s, the LDST will increase annual energy production by up to eight per cent at a hub height of 137 meter for the V126-3.3 MW compared to a hub height of 117 meter for the conventional steel tower.”
  • Given the increased height there is a complimentary increase in wind force exerted on the base of the tower. This usually is fixed by using thicker steel plates, but the LDST has instead increased the diameter of the bottom section which has strengthened the tower without using much more steel — reducing production costs and keeping the cost of energy low.

Sources:

Staff, “Illinois – The Quiet Renewable Energy Achiever.” Energy Matters. 10 March 2014.

Doug McDonough, “Wind farm could be largest taxpayer.” MyPlainView.com. 8 March 2014.

Joshua S. Hill, “Vestas Unveils Taller Wind Turbine For Low Wind Locations.” 10 March 2014.

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