• Opportunity and Challenges for Renewable Energy and Communities

    The energy sector is transforming from a “big” business structure driven by non-renewable environmental extraction to a sector built on accessible abundant and renewable energy to households and business of all sizes, according to a series of briefing papers by the Center for Social Inclusion. This change will bring exciting new entrepreneurship opportunities and the potential to transform socially and economically isolated communities into meaningful partners in their local and regional economies.

    “Distributed generation provides new roles for communities to preserve and increase social equity, environmental quality, energy independence and wealth.”
    —Center for Social Inclusion

    According to the briefing paper Wind and Energy Generation at the Community Level, “Distributed generation provides new roles for communities to preserve and increase social equity, environmental quality, energy independence and wealth.” Distributed generation is cited as an emerging model that allows consumers, businesses, and landowners to become producers for the electric power grid. We hear a lot about a smart grid, but distributed generation would bring an array of benefits including both transmission efficiency and energy independence.

    The briefing paper suggests that wind commercialization at the community scale has a moderate suitability rating for communities of color and a moderate level of entry risk to businesses interested in entering the segment. Communities need supportive public policy and technological assistance to get a toehold in the market for wind energy.

    The paper points out that Windustry and other groups advocate using property tax financing programs to cover costs of installing and upgrading energy generation systems as a policy improvement that would gain major benefits:

    • First, access to credit can help cover much of the upfront costs, and during tough economic times this program offers an alternative to people who cannot tap into home equity lines or gain low-interest personal loans.
    • Second, the obligation to repay the loan stays with the property. Therefore, payments become the responsibility of whoever owns that property and is benefiting from the onsite electricity generation.

    Windustry, in partnership with the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE), has released a study of "Property Tax Financing Authorization" policies in 11 states that encourage development of renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. Property Tax Financing programs provide a direct way for individuals to cover some, if not all, of the costs of energy efficiency upgrades and distributed generation systems.

    The Minnesota Flip is one of the useful models in the paper for structuring equity partnerships between community-held assets or individual landowners and investors, as it supports economically successful, community-driven partnerships that benefit individuals and corporate interests. Minnesota is used as a model policy state with the following policy structures enabling renewable asset development:

    • Renewable Energy Production Incentive
    • Agricultural Improvement Loan Program
    • Value-Added Stock Loan Participation Program
    • Interconnection Standards Law
    • Standard Power Purchase

    Overall, the paper concludes that “it will be important for communities to advocate for rules and policies that allow community based wind power producers to get equitable access to the grid.”

    Black, Brown and Green, a program of the Center for Social Inclusion, explores the economic opportunities and hurdles for green business models in communities of color. Black Brown and Green offers resources to communities and companies to help them identify their needs and develop a strategy for entering the Green Energy Sector.

  • Treasury Allocates $2.2 Billion in Clean Renewable Energy Bonds

    The U.S. Department of Treasury has allocated $2.2 billion in Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (CREBs) for 805 recipients across the country. Funded by the Energy Improvement and Extension Act of 2008 and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, these energy bonds help government agencies, public power providers, and cooperative electric companies obtain lower cost financing for clean energy development projects.

    The Treasury Department allocates bond authority to governmental agencies, public power providers, and cooperative electric companies involved in clean renewable energy development and production. These bonds function as tax credit bonds which allow investors to receive federal tax credits in lieu of the payment of a portion of the interest on the bond. For CREBs, the federal tax credits will cover 70 percent of the interest on the bonds.

    "The Recovery Act's innovative bond programs provide communities around the country with financing to jump start important development projects," said Treasury Deputy Secretary Neal Wolin. "Because of the Clean Renewable Energy Bonds awards, energy developers will be able to access lower cost credit to help make the shift to clean renewable energy production, benefitting both our economy and our environment."

    A complete list of recipients receiving awards of bond authority to issue CREBs can be found here

  • Community Power Conference in Ontario Has Global Reach

    The Ontario Sustainable Energy Association (OSEA) hosted it's first Community Power Conference on November 15-16 with international speakers, 450 conference delegates, and over 2,500 trade show attendees. The conference was chaired by Dr. David Suzuki, the well-known scientist, host of The Nature of Things, and author of many books including the recent The Big Picture: Reflections on Science, Humanity, and a Quickly Changing Planet.

    "Our goal was to capture the momentum of Ontario's new Green Energy Act and work towards 100% sustainable energy," said Kristopher Stevens, executive director of OSEA. Ontario's Green Energy Act of 2009 was intended to create a stable investment environment for renewable energy through a Feed-In-Tariff along with other regulations to streamline approval processes and to encourage locally owned development.

    Speakers and panel participants included renewable energy experts from around the world including Dr. Josef Pesch of the German Wind Energy Association, Stefan Gsänger of the World Wind Energy Association, renewable energy expert/advocate and author Paul Gipe, and Miguel Mendonca of the World Future Council.

    A new International Community Power working group was launched at the conference by OSEA and the World Wind Energy Association (WWEA). "This new International working group with WWEA will work to document and share best practices while strengthening the worldwide network of local sustainable energy leaders," said Stevens.

    "This will allow for renewables to become centralized via Community Power projects. We have more renewables than we need and they are presently decentralized, so this partnership will instigate greater success worldwide, " said Dr. Pesch, who co-founded the German Wind Energy Association (BWE) and is managing director of Fesa, a German company that develops citizen participation projects for renewable energy.

  • Connecting Renewable Energy to a Smarter Grid

    Transmission Linemen
    Transmission Lineman
    photo: mnorri, some rights reserved

    There are many hurdles for connecting renewable energy projects to the existing electric power grid. Transmission lines already operate near full capacity. Substations may not handle new interconnections. Regulatory processes span state and federal authorities, and interconnection standards vary from state to state. Plus, it's not clear how to best allocate costs for infrastructure improvements between utilities, energy developers, and rate-payers.

    The good news is that both industry and government groups have invested in research on how to better connect renewable energy projects to the grid and how to construct a smart grid that can support a clean energy future. While there is clearly need for technology improvements, much of the research points to improved policies, consistency in standards, and adoption of best practices. Here are recently released reports on these topics.

    The sixth edition of the Interstate Renewable Energy Council's (IREC) Connecting to the Grid Guide provides a comprehensive introduction to a span of topics that relate to grid-tied renewable energy sources. The sixth edition has been revised to include information on IREC's recently updated model procedures, alternative billing arrangements for net metering, energy storage and several other emerging issues in the field. This guide is designed for state regulators and other policymakers, utilities, industry representatives and consumers interested in the development of state-level interconnection and net metering policies.

    The National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), part of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) laboratory system, hosts a Modern Grid Strategy web site that regularly issues whitepapers. The Transmission Smart Grid Imperative outlines the technologies that are ready to be deployed while considering the complexities of building consensus for new transmission construction. Accomodates All Generation and Storage Options defines how a smart grid can be powered by small distributed energy resources (DER) which include both distributed generation and storage, as one of seven "Smart Grid Principal Characteristics" identifed by NETL.

    Perspectives for Utilities & Others Implementing Smart Grids by The Smart Grid Stakeholder Roundtable Group represents the outcome of meetings with a range of stakeholders including state agencies, consumer groups, environmental groups, commercial and industrial consumers, utilities and public utility commissions. The report was sponsored by the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability with the goal "to help utilities and other smart grid project developers better communicate how and why they think smart grid technologies will benefit consumers and the environment, as well as the overall electric system in general."

    Under the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), partnering with DOE and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), has "primary responsibility to coordinate development of a framework that includes protocols and model standards for information management to achieve interoperability of smart grid devices and systems..." The NIST Framework and Roadmap for Smart Grid Interoperability Standards, Release 1.0 is a draft of a framework that includes protocols and model standards for information management to achieve interoperability of Smart Grid devices and systems. NIST has currently identified 16 initial standards and is considering an additional 46 potential standards. 

  • Landowner Associations Can Help Market South Dakota Wind

    "You'll find that a lot of wind-energy developers are reluctant to come to South Dakota because they don't know anyone and they don't know about our resources," says Steve Wegman of the South Dakota Wind Energy Association

    in the article "Landowners advised: Consider wind-energy development" in the Madison Daily Leader.

    "Landowner associations help undeveloped areas get noticed. It's an opportunity for them to get their flag up in the air," says Wegman, who explains that landowners can invite utilities and developers to consider their wind resources by organizing together.

    Get more information about the South Dakota Wind Energy Association.

    Get more information about landowner associations.

  • Windustry Receives Energy Foundation Grant

    Windustry has received a grant from the Energy Foundation to continue our work advancing public policies that support Community Wind and community owned renewable energy. The Energy Foundation, located in San Francisco, is a partnership of major donors interested in solving the world's energy problems. Their mission is to advance energy efficiency and renewable energy—new technologies that are essential components of a clean energy future.

    Windustry has a strong history of advocacy for policies that will stimulate the growth of Community Wind on the state, regional and national levels. Over the next year Windustry will pursue this goal in a variety of ways that will involve education, information dissemination, networking and coalition-building, and strategic policy development. Windustry is deeply thankful for the ongoing support of the Energy Foundation.

  • IREC Releases 2009 Interconnection and Net Metering Guides

    The Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) has just released the 2009 updates for its highly respected and influential rules and procedures for interconnecting and net metering distributed generation.

    Many of the model procedures that regulators and utilities look to in developing local standards have not been updated in the past three years. Since that time, there has been significant market growth for renewable distributed generation. To facilitate that growth, many states have adopted net metering and interconnection policies and many others have revisited and expanded their existing policies to incorporate lessons learned from facilitating increased penetrations of distributed generation.

    IREC has been a participant in more than thirty state utility commission rulemakings regarding interconnection and net metering of distributed generation. IREC's model rule updates capture these evolved best practices and compile them into a template regulators and utilities can use as a starting point when drafting local rules.

    Important advances in interconnection procedures include:

    • clarifying that third party ownership of facilities is permissible;
    • raising the size eligibility for the simplest installations from 10 kilowatts to 25 kilowatts;
    • allowing online applications;
    • addressing state-jurisdictional facilities over ten megawatts; and
    • updating provisions related to network interconnections.

    Important advances in net metering rules include:

    • increase in the size of systems eligible for net metering;
    • expansion of program capacity caps;
    • meter aggregation; and
    • accommodation of third-party ownership of net metered systems.

    Both guides may be downloaded from IREC in the links below.
    Model Interconnection Procedures 2009
    Net Metering Model Rules 2009

  • Emerging Renewable Energy Industries in MN RFP

    The Office of Energy Security (OES) at the Minnesota Department of Commerce requests proposals for emerging renewable energy industries' projects. Eligible organizations are those that are engaged or will engage in the manufacture of renewable energy systems or fuels, energy storage systems, geothermal energy systems for heating and cooling, or the manufacture of components for such systems in the State of Minnesota.

    Proposals submitted in response to this RFP must be received no later than 4:00 p.m. CST, December 18, 2009. For more information, visit the OES web site.

  • International Day of Climate Action


    October 24, 2009 - Citizens, scientists and world leaders in 181 countries are taking to nearby streets, mountains, parks, and reefs today to demand strong action on climate change, in what will be the most widespread day of political action in the planet's history.

    More than 5,000 rallies and creative demonstrations are taking place, all of them centered on the number 350, to draw attention to 350 parts per million (ppm), which an overwhelming number of scientists now insist is the safe upper limit for carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

    Windustry is partnering with wind farm sites across the country to show support by displaying ‘350’ banners and flags on wind turbines, demonstrating that wind energy is part of the solution to reduce carbon emissions by providing clean sustainable energy, and wind power installations are competitive and cost-secure compared with other power technologies. We'll post photos as they come in.

    Hull Wind I
    Hull Wind I, Hull, Massachusetts

    Hull Wind I is 164-foot-tall  660-kilowatt Vestas turbine on "Windmill Point" in the small town of Hull, Massachusetts, across the bay from the city of Boston, installed in 2001 by Hull Municipal Light Plant (HMLP), a municipally owned utility. In 1998 a group of citizens eager to see a locally owned wind energy project formed themselves into C.A.R.E. (Citizen Advocates for Renewable Energy), selected officers Malcolm Brown and Andrew Stern, and petitioned Hull Light to take the project on.

    Based upon the success of Hull I, a second larger turbine was considered. By May of 2006, Hull Wind 2 was commissioned (a Vestas V80, rated at 1.8 megawatts).  In its first year it produced 4,088,000 KWh's, and townsfolk showed considerable pride in the results.  Six state and national awards had meantime accumulated.   One commissioner joked “we have run out of wall space in our the Light Plant's offices to hang our award plaques—some will have to be moved to Town Hall.”  Over 10% of the town's entire consumption of electric energy is being supplied by this pair of turbines.

    North American Wind Research and Training Center
    North American Wind Research and Training Center, Tucumcari, New Mexico

    Picture taken at North American Wind Research and Training Center (NAWRTC) on Mesalands Community College campus in Tucumcari, New Mexico. From left to right are Jim Morgan, Director of North American Wind Research and Training Center, John Hail Jr., Director and Instructor of the Wind Energy Technology Program, and Troy Carpenter, Instructor of the Wind Energy Technology Program. In the background is the GE 1.5 megawatt turbine used for the training program. The program offers a one-year certificate and a two-year degree in wind energy technology.

    Establishment of NAWRTC began in October 2008 with the installation of the 1.5 megawatt wind turbine at Mesalands to give students the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in the operation and maintenance of wind turbines. Construction of the training center is the next phase in developing the wind energy technology program at the college. Mesalands, through NAWRTC, also expects to conduct research related to operations maintenance and reliability with Sandia National Laboratories. The proposed training center is approximately 30,000 square feet and will contain a display area, lecture hall, classrooms, offices, and hydraulic and electric labs. Construction is expected to be complete in November 2010.

    Iowa Lakes Community College
    Iowa Lakes Community College, Estherville, Iowa

    The Iowa Lakes Community College Wind Energy Club hung a 350 flag from the Vestas 1.65 megawatt wind turbine that provides both electricity for the campus and a hands-on training opportunity for students. Pictured from left to right are Mike Gengler, Mike Sauch, Kevin Klein, Tim O'Brien, Dion Higgins, Melissa Radmaker, Loma Roggenkamp, Tim Moon, Landon Baker, Chris Nemmers, and Holland Gilmore. The Wind Energy and Turbine Technology Program at Iowa Lakes Community College is the first in the state of Iowa, with both a diploma program and a Associate in Applied Science degree. Since the number of wind turbines in the state of Iowa is growing quickly, Iowa Lakes Community College is working to help meet the growing demand for skilled technicians who can install, maintain, and service modern wind turbines.

    UpdateIowa Lakes wind students promote 350.org, Estherville Daily News

    Banner funding provided by the Jan & David Blittersdorf Foundation.