Small Turbines From Silicon Valley Firm May Shift Wind Energy Market


While wind energy is the fastest-growing energy source in the world, wind farms provide less than five percent of the energy in the U.S.

But one Silicon Valley startup is aiming to change the market’s direction. CEO Ignacio Juarez co-founded Semtive six years ago in Argentina, where today you can find its turbines powering street lights and part of the Sheraton Hotel grounds in Buenos Aires.

The renewable wind energy startup opened its U.S. headquarters at NASA Research Park at Moffett Field last year.

“We developed a very simple, affordable and reliable way to generate clean energy with wind,” said Juarez.

Unlike wind farms, which rely on speeds of 30 mph or greater, Semtive’s turbines are made for low wind speeds. Its blades are designed to allow the turbines to keep spinning at low wind speeds – around 10 miles per hour – which is the Bay Area average.

Semtive says the turbines are ideal for urban and rural areas. They are made of aircraft-grade aluminum, and manufactured in Mountain View and Manteca. Installation on a rooftop or balcony takes less than an hour. You can already spot test turbines at homes in Pacifica and at University of California, Davis.

Biologists and animal activists have rallied against wind farms for years, because the blades are notorious bird killers. Surveys estimate that there are 5,000 or more bird deaths each year at the Altamont Pass.

Semtive says its new turbines are safe for wildlife. In fact, you can stop the blades with your hand.

The company believes its product is the first and most affordable small wind turbine on the market for homes and businesses.

The smallest model starts at $4,600. To offset the cost, customers can qualify for green tax rebates and incentives from the state and federal government.

“If you are living in a very small apartment in San Francisco you can put one on the balcony to generate clean energy there, if you have your electric car you can install one in your house to car your electric car,” added Juarez.

Wind energy can be generated at the cost of two cents per kilowatt hour. By comparison – solar energy averages about eight cents per kilowatt hour.

Juarez says if you PG&E bill falls under $150 a month – one medium-sized turbine can generate 100 percent of your energy usage. All you need is the Semtive converter, which is included in the purchase. You plug it into any outlet and it sends energy back into the grid. And you can keep track of your savings with the accompanying app.

“Everybody can generate affordable clean energy today with our solution,” Juarez said.

The company is taking the first U.S. pre-sales on its website starting Tuesday, May 16.

“Semtive is an innovative company, they’ve got interesting technology,” said San Francisco State University Faculty Director of Graduate Business Programs Sanjit Sengupta.

Sengupta’s research focuses on new product development and technological innovation.

“If it really pans out it would be economically beneficial to consumers, even of solar, because you can’t do away with solar,” said Sengupta. “But, for example, if it’s a cloudy day and so on, and there’s not enough solar, then this would be a nice complement.”

Wind Project in Wyoming Envisions Coal Miners as Trainees


Goldwind Americas, an arm of a leading wind-turbine manufacturer based in China, has been expanding its business in the United States. It has been careful to seek out local, American workers for permanent jobs on the wind farms it supplies.

Now it is trying to extend that policy to an unlikely place: Wyoming, which produces more coal than any other state and has hardly welcomed the march of turbines across the country, even imposing a tax on wind-energy generation.

On Thursday at an energy conference in Wyoming, the company announced plans for a free training program for one of the nation’s fastest-growing jobs: wind farm technician. And it is aiming the program at coal miners having trouble finding work, as well as those from other industries.

Called Goldwind Works, the program would begin next month with a series of informational meetings in Wyoming and include a safety training and tower climb at a wind farm in Montana.

The company has an agreement to supply turbines, potentially 850, to a project in Carbon County, Wyo., where the state’s first coal mine opened a century ago. Once construction is completed, as many as 200 workers will be needed to maintain and operate the plant.

The chief executive, David Halligan, said in a telephone interview that he expected coal workers to have relevant skills, mainly electrical and mechanical, and experience working under difficult conditions.

“If we can tap into that market and also help out folks that might be experiencing some challenges in the work force today, I think that it can be a win-win situation,” he said. “If you’re a wind technician, you obviously can’t be afraid of heights. You have to be able to work at heights, and you have to be able to work at heights in a safe manner.”

The program could offer a needed boost. Hundreds of coal miners were laid off in Wyoming last year. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that national employment for mining and geological engineers will grow by 6 percent between 2014 and 2024, while employment for wind turbine technicians is expected to grow by 108 percent.

Robert Godby, director of the Center for Energy Economics and Public Policy at the University of Wyoming, said the announcement could lead to a shift in thinking about the potential economic development benefits of wind projects. The state has some of the most robust winds in the country and has attracted keen interest from developers.

“This is actually a realization of these benefits in a way that hasn’t been apparent before,” Mr. Godby said. “The more you hear these positive stories and you start to see more direct benefits, it changes local perspectives and kind of begins to open minds.”

He cautioned, though, that the program could hardly make up for job losses in the coal industry, in part because each coal job results in related jobs, given the supply chain involved in handling and transporting the fuel.

Beyond Wyoming, the program could have implications for complex trade relations with China. In 2013, the Commerce Department finalized steep tariffs on some wind towers after finding that China was providing unfair subsidies to manufacturers that were then selling their products at below-market prices.

“This seems to be an effort — and perhaps a smart effort — by a Chinese company to win its way into the hearts of this administration and get beyond what’s happened in the past by targeting a core group of supporters of this president,” said Rory MacFarquhar, a visiting fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

“But this administration has been talking much more about manufacturing than about services,” added Mr. MacFarquhar, who helped set international economic and trade policy in the Obama White House. “They seem to want to actually have factory jobs back in the United States.”

Mr. Halligan said that Goldwind did not have plans for American manufacturing, but that the Wyoming wind project could generate thousands of construction jobs and hundreds of full-time operations and support positions.

The company plans to use the Wyoming program as a pilot. It hopes to eventually roll it out in other states where it supplies turbines, like Texas.

European Energy Auctions Yield Ever-Lower Wind Energy Prices In Germany & Spain


Two recent European renewable energy auctions in Germany and Spain have yielded not only significant interest in onshore wind energy, but record low onshore wind prices for Europe.

Earlier in the month the results of Spain’s renewable energy auction were announced, with wind energy accounting for nearly all of the 3 gigawatts (GW) which was on offer, all of which was offered at the maximum possible discount, meaning that Spanish consumers won’t need to foot the bill. This resulted in contracts being awarded for nearly 3 GW of wind energy for €43 per megawatt-hour (MWh), reportedly the lowest level ever awarded in an onshore wind tender in Europe, according to the European wind energy trade body, WindEurope.

“The tender results show how onshore wind is today the cheapest option for new power generation,” explained Giles Dickson, CEO WindEurope.

“Some may think wind energy no longer needs subsidies. But it was the fact the auction offered a guaranteed minimum income that attracted investors and ensured there were enough bids to deliver the low price. And this is the point — it’s not subsidies but revenue stabilisation mechanisms, addressing the risk of wholesale price volatility, that will be critical to the deployment of onshore wind across Europe at competitive costs. By offering revenue stability, auctions play a crucial role in enabling investors to finance a project — they’re key to making projects happen.”

The Spanish auction awarded 2,979 MW of wind energy, 1 MW for solar PV installations, and 20 MW for other technologies, all of which is expected to be operational before 2020. However, unfortunately, the Spanish solar association, Unión Española Fotovoltaica (UNEF), has claimed that solar was discriminated against in the auction.

Moving north, Germany’s Federal Network Agency, the Bundesnetzagentur, announced the results of the country’s first auction for onshore wind energy, which apparently yielded “a pleasingly high level of competition” and was significantly oversubscribed. According to the Bundesnetzagentur, the onshore wind energy auction received 256 bids with a volume of 2,137 MW. In the end, 70 bids totaling 807 MW were accepted, at an average of €57.1 MW/h. (The Bundesnetzagentur announced the results in Euro-cents per-kilowatt-hour (KWh), with the average being 5.71 Euro-cents, which can also be written as €0.0571.) The highest bid accepted was for €55.8 MW/h.

The auction was specifically interesting with 70% of all bids being submitted by citizens’ energy companies, receiving 93% of the bids and 96% of the volume awarded.

Wind Power Gives Oklahoma Schools a Lifeline During Budget Cuts


The Oklahoman recently took a look at what the Sooner State’s growing wind industry has meant for rural school districts.

Its findings: Wind power has made a big difference.

Oklahoma has faced steep cuts to its state education budget in recent years, but wind payments have helped bridge the gap for many small-town districts.

“We would probably be right there screaming with everyone else about the budget if it wasn’t for those (turbines),” said Rob Friesen, superintendent of Okarche Public Schools. The Okarche school system recently added a new gym, built a new elementary school and art center, and a constructed an agricultural and technology building.

“It increases the amount of money you can go out and bond,” Friesen said. “Without it, we wouldn’t be doing all these projects,” Friesen said. “Without it, we would have to pick just one of these projects.”

Meanwhile, Robert Trammell, superintendent of Cheyenne Public schools, said wind revenue makes up 10 percent of his district’s budget, and wind development helped the Minco public school system build a new high school.

Turnbull says Tasmania wind, hydro can become “energy battery” for Australia


Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has extended his vision of large-scale pumped hydro and storage to Tasmania, outlining plans to expand the island’s existing hydropower system, and possibly add 2,500MW in pumped hydro, and describing the possibility that the state could become the “renewable energy battery” for Australia.

The announcement comes just weeks after Turnbull unveiled a new study to investigate the so-called “Snowy 2.0”, a plan to add 2GW – with up to 175 hours of storage – in pumped hydro capacity in the Snowy Mountains; a move that would effectively kill the prospect of new coal or gas plants.

The latest announcement, made in Launceston with the Tasmanian premier and the state-owned Hydro Tasmania on Thursday, canvasses the possibility of adding a new cable between the island and the mainland, and significantly boosting both hydro capacity and wind energy to supply “baseload” renewables to the major markets.

Turnbull said the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) was in the process of assessing applications from Hydro Tasmania to support feasibility work into redeveloping the Tarraleah scheme and enhancing the Gordon Power Station.

It’s also considering an application to explore the utility of several new pumped hydro energy storage schemes that could deliver up to 2500MW of pumped hydro capacity: Mersey Forth-1, Mersey Forth-2, Great Lake and Lake Burbury – with capacity of around 500-700 MW each – and an alternative of nine small scale sites totalling 500MW.

“Its importance has become greater as the energy market has evolved. there is an opportunity for more wind and hydro today,” Turnbull said.

“We recognise that as the energy sources changes, we need to ensure that we have the storage … we have announced a study for the Snowy Hydro, but there is the opportunity here in Tasmania.

“It can double the capacity of hydro Tasmania, and it has the best wind assets in Australia. The roaring forties … are fantastic for wind farms. There is an opportunity for Tasmania to play a bigger part in ensuring that Australia has reliable and affordable energy, and meet emission reduction targets.

“Tasmania could become a renewable battery storage for Australia in an era of distributed, renewable power.”

The announcement came in tandem with the release of a study by Dr John Tamblyn into a second interconnector. Dr Tamblyn’s report finds another interconnector might be beneficial, but will depend on the ongoing development of the electricity system in Tasmania and the National Electricity Market.

Hydro Tasmania’s CEO Steve Davy said the company was looking to upgrade and expanding Tasmania’s hydropower network, as well as the potential for new private wind farm development and pumped storage opportunities, “to help lead Australia through the challenging (energy) transition.”

“We have nation-leading expertise in integrating renewable energy into the grid in a stable and affordable way. We’ve done that innovatively and successfully in Tasmania, and it’s the very challenge mainland Australia is starting to grapple with,” Davy said in a statement.

The studies would include an investigation into replacing one of Tasmania’s oldest operating power stations at Tarraleah in the Central Highlands, and expanding it from around 550GWh of renewable energy each year to more than 760GWh. The proposal involves constructing a 17-kilometre long underground tunnel from Lake King William and adding pumped hydro capacity.

There is also a study to add a third, smaller turbine to the Gordon power station, the largest in Tasmania, and the only station on the Gordon/Pedder scheme.

Full tilt: giant offshore wind farm opens in North Sea


Dutch officials have opened what is being billed as one of the world’s largest offshore wind farms, with 150 turbines spinning far out in the North Sea.

Over the next 15 years the Gemini windpark, which lies some 85km (53 miles) off the northern coast of the Netherlands, will meet the energy needs of about 1.5 million people.

At full tilt the windpark has a generating capacity of 600 megawatts and will help supply 785,000 Dutch households with renewable energy, according to the company.

“We are now officially in the operational stage,” the company’s managing director Matthias Haag said, celebrating the completion of a project first conceived in 2010.

The €2.8bn ($3bn) project is a collaboration between the Canadian independent renewable energy company Northland Power, wind turbine manufacturer Siemens Wind Power, Dutch maritime contractor Van Oord and waste processing company HVC.

It was “quite a complex” undertaking, Haag said, “particularly as this windpark lies relatively far offshore … so it took quite a lot of logistics”.

Gemini would contribute about 13% of the country’s total renewable energy supply and about 25% of its wind power, he added.

It would help reduce emissions of carbon-dioxide emissions, among the greenhouse gases blamed for global warming, by 1.25m tonnes, the company says.

The Netherlands remains dependant on fossil fuels which still make up about 95% of its energy supply, according to a 2016 report from the ministry of economics affairs.

The Dutch government has committed to ensuring 14% of its energy comes from renewable sources such as wind and solar power by 2020, and 16% by 2023, with the aim of being carbon neutral by 2050.

Gemini “is seen as a stepping stone” in the Netherlands and has “shown that a very large project can be built on time, and in a very safe environment”, Haag said.

U.S. Wind Energy Installations Surge: A New Turbine Rises Every 2.4 Hours


Every two and a half hours, workers installed a new wind turbine in the United States during the first quarter of 2017, marking the strongest start for the wind industry in eight years, according to a new report by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) released on May 2.

“We switched on more megawatts in the first quarter than in the first three quarters of last year combined,” Tom Kiernan, CEO of AWEA, said in a statement.

Nationwide, wind provided 5.6 percent of all electricity produced in 2016, an amount of electricity generation that has more than doubled since 2010. Much of the demand for new wind energy generation in recent years has come from Fortune 500 companies including Home Depot, GM, Walmart and Microsoft that are buying wind energy in large part for its low, stable cost.

The significant increase this past quarter, when 908 new utility-scale turbines came online, is largely a result of the first wave of projects under the renewable energy tax credits that were extended by Congress in 2015, as well as some overflow from the prior round of tax credits. The tax credits’ gradual phase-out over a period of five years incentivized developers to begin construction in 2016, and those projects are now beginning to come online.

A recent AWEA-funded report projects continued steady growth for the wind energy industry through 2020. Energy analysts, however, say that growth could slow after 2020 as the federal Production Tax Credit (PTC) expires.

“We are in a PTC bubble now between 2017 and 2020,” said Alex Morgan, a wind energy analyst with Bloomberg New Energy Finance, which recently forecast wind energy developments in the U.S. through 2030. “Our build is really front-loaded in those first four years. We expect that wind drops off in early 2020s to mid-2020s, and then we expect it to come back up in the late 2020s.

A key driver in the early 2020s will be renewable portfolio standards in states like New York and California, which have both mandated that local utilities get 50 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2030.

By the mid-2020s, the cost of unsubsidized onshore wind will be low enough to compete with both existing and new fossil-fueled generation in many regions of the U.S., Morgan said.

The 2,000 megawatts of new wind capacity added in the first quarter of 2017 is equivalent to the capacity of nearly three average size coal-fired power plants. However, because wind power is intermittent—turbines don’t produce electricity when there is no wind—wind turbines don’t come as close to reaching their full capacity of electricity generation as coal fired power plants do.

The report shows that Texas continues as the overall national leader for wind power capacity, with 21,000 MW of total installed capacity, three times more than Iowa, the second leading state for wind power installations. Over 99 percent of wind farms are built in rural communities; together, the installations pay over $245 million per year in lease agreements with local landowners, according to AWEA.

The new installation figures also translate to continued job growth in America’s wind power supply chain, which includes 500 factories and over 100,000 jobs, according to AWEA.

Recharge with water and wind energy


Seaformatics’ Waterlily is a portable turbine that can harness the power of both wind and water. Weighing 800g the waterlily is light and measuring 180mm by 75mm it is small and easily transported or taken camping, kayaking or cycling. When harvesting power from water the minimum flow required is 1 km/hr and flow for peak power output is 7.2 km/hr, although Waterlily can work in flows up to 11km/hr. The device can be submerged indefinitely up to almost 11 thousand metres. The components are all corrosion resistant for use in the ocean.

When harnessing energy from wind the minimum speed required is 10.8 km/hr with peak output at 72km/hr but the device can work in winds up to 90 km/hr. Any USB device can be charged with the Waterlily and Seaformatics will be adding a hand crank accessory for emergency use. In the future the device will also come with a bike mount and tow cable kit for towing behind a car or kayak. Waterlily is being developed by Canadian start-up company Saformatics based in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, that designs and manufactures power harvesting systems for the ocean monitoring industry. Seaformatics have miniaturized the technology so that hikers, campers, paddlers and cyclists can utilize the patent-pending, low-speed turbine while enjoying the outdoors. The four founders of the company are engineers who developed the technology as part of a 6 year multi-disciplinary engineering research project at Memorial University. Their technology was designed to work for long periods of time in the harsh ocean environment and their prototypes have been successfully tested for over 1400 days in real world subsea environments.

United Wind Brings Distributed Wind Energy To Farmers


Distributed wind company United Wind Inc. has announced a new agreement with Farmer’s Business Network Inc. (FBN), an independent farmer-to-farmer network that spans over 13 million acres of member farms.

United Wind is now offering its WindLease through FBN’s farmer-direct marketplace. According to United Wind, WindLease allows FBN members to lease a small wind system for no money down, stabilize their electricity costs over the long term and save money on their utility bills on day one.

United Wind handles all responsibilities related to development, construction, and operations and maintenance of the wind system; in turn, customers can focus on their farm operations.

“Farmers are being squeezed on both sides by low crop prices and high input and energy costs,” says Charles Baron, co-founder and vice president of products for FBN. “By stabilizing electricity rates over the long term, farmers can hedge against these rising utility rates and create certainty in their energy costs and produce renewable energy right on their farm. On-farm energy production strengthens farmers’ independence.”

United Wind says it will also provide exclusive benefits and pricing to FBN members.

“FBN members operate complex businesses. They are always looking at ways to improve their bottom line and ensure the sustainability of their farm for today and the next generation,” says Russell Tencer, CEO of United Wind. “Our WindLease provides a turnkey solution to meet those objectives and take the wind that was once a nuisance and turn it into a source of economic gain.”

China continues to lead global wind energy market, says new report


Over 54 gigawatts (GW) of wind power were installed in 2016 and cumulative capacity grew by more than 12 percent to hit 486.8 GW, according to a new report from global trade association, the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC).

Released on Tuesday, the GWEC’s Global Wind Report: Annual Market Update forecasts nearly 60 GW of wind installations this year, with cumulative installed capacity seen reaching more than 800 GW by the end of 2021.

The GWEC said that Asia would lead growth, with China – which installed 23 GW in 2016 – leading all markets.

The report further outlined that the 2016 market had not met expectations set by the GWEC in early 2016. This was due to several reasons, including China installing “only” 23 GW in 2016 and smaller-than-expected markets in Mexico, Brazil, Canada and Africa.

The majority of these issues were seen as cyclical, the GWEC said, and it expected the market to pick up this year.

“Wind power is now successfully competing with heavily subsidized incumbents across the globe, building new industries, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs and leading the way towards a clean energy future,” Steve Sawyer, GWEC secretary general, said in a statement.

“We are well into a period of disruptive change, moving away from power systems centered on a few large, polluting plants towards markets increasingly dominated by a range of widely distributed renewable energy sources,” Sawyer added.

Wind energy is becoming an increasingly important source of power, with the International Energy Agency stating it is “developing towards a mainstream, competitive and reliable power technology.”

Looking forward, the GWEC said that Africa was set to have a “big year in 2017” while the Australian market was due to “come roaring back with a pipeline of projects” to be built over the coming years.

“Overall, we have a lot of confidence in the wind power market going forward, as the technology continues to improve, prices continue to go down and the call for clean, renewable power to reduce emissions, clean our air and create new jobs and new industries only gets stronger with each passing year,” Sawyer added.