Global Wind Farm development is certainly on the rise. It was reported that the amount of wind energy installed around the world rose by over 12% in 2013. Canada recorded exceptionally strong growth in 2013 with a record of close to 1,600 MW of new wind energy capacity installed, placing it 5th globally. Currently ranked 9th in the world in total installed capacity with more than 7,500 MW of energy in operation, Canada sustains its position as a global wind energy leader. Canada’s wind energy projects generate enough power to meet the annual needs of approximately 2 million Canadian homes. Canada will see a new record for annual installations of wind energy in 2014 as new projects are under construction across the country. This will cause an obvious rise in demand for Canadian and US contractors and subcontractors. West Wind Reinforcing, LLC fits the bill, as a large-scale re-bar installation project solutions team.
Gearing up to take part in this future development, West Wind Reinforcing is headed North to set up its Canadian headquarters in the Calgary area of Alberta. “Our goal is to offer our Canadian clients the same level of service and reliability that we currently provide in the US,” states Don Evanson, President of West Wind Reinforcing. Don concludes, “We are looking forward to another busy season in Canada.”
Even though new wind farm construction may be booming in Canada, these specific projects will only make up about 15% of the Canadian projects West Wind Reinforcing has in its pipeline this year. West Wind will also be a part of upcoming transmission and power projects up North.
West Wind Reinforcing is proud to be able to provide its services in both the US and Canada and is very much looking forward to building long-lasting professional relationships with its Canadian neighbors.
PICS Auditing is a third party Review Company that assesses contractors’ strengths in safety performance and business management for corporations with regional, national and global operations.
Approval by PICS requires the submittal of licensing, insurance certificates, OSHA 300 logs, Experience Modification Ratings, training documentation, safety polices and manuals. Approved contractors must meet both high safety standards and performance records. West Wind Reinforcing, LLC. is committed to environmentally conscious and safe work practices that protect the health and well-being of both our employees and our clients. We are pleased to have passed this rigorous pre-qualification process and to be a new member of PICS Consortium.
“What if you could scoop the air? Scoop it and move it downward, amplifying its kinetic energy along the way, concentrate it to a single point of intensity, the way a magnifying glass concentrates sunlight to a single incendiary point?”
Dr. Daryoush Allaei, an engineer and founder of Sheerwind, an innovative wind power company, is concentrating his unique thought process on harnessing wind energy in new ways.
“And assuming you could do this technically, could you do it on a large enough scale to make it economically feasible?” Allaei writes in his company description. “More to the point, could you generate energy so inexpensively that it stages a renaissance?”
Sheerwind is pushing the boundaries of wind power innovation with its bladeless wind turbine, called INVELOX. The turbines funnel wind into ground-level generators through a tapering passageway that squeezes and accelerates the air. The units are about half as tall as traditional wind towers, which rise up to 260 feet into the air, and the ground-based turbine blades are more than 80 percent smaller than conventional wind turbine blades, which are about 115-feet long. The device resembles a giant gramophone that sucks in wind instead of blurting out sound.
Sheerwind represents a small point in the larger picture of wind power development, itself part of the story of renewable energy technology. The entire history of power generation, from Ben Franklin’s kite experiments 250 years ago to deep sea drilling for oil and gas is a complex tale of imaginative inventiveness riding up against economic realities. As wind power takes hold across the world, developers are constantly looking for new ways to make the technology lighter, faster, and more efficient but some of the most inventive ideas are often stymied by a lack of financial support during early stages.
Pushing The Envelope
In an emblematic fashion, the world’s largest and most powerful wind turbine swung into gear at the Danish National Test Centre for Large Wind Turbines in January. The turbine is 720-feet tall, has 260-foot blades, and can generate eight MW of power — enough to supply electricity for up to 3,200 U.S. households. Sheerwind, on the other end of the spectrum, is working on installing a 200-kilowatt system in Royalton, a small Minnesota town that wants to showcase an industrial park.
“With any paradigm-changing technology there’s also push-back,” said Carla Scholz, marketing and communications director for Sheerwind, about working with larger, more established wind power companies. “They’re all starting to pay a bit more attention. We’re working towards the next round of raising funds. No one will fund new technology like this; you literally need someone with very deep pockets or something that’s already privately funded and ready to go. Tons of people want to test them for us.”
But going from testing prototypes to installing power-generating, grid-feeding wind capacity requires a strong tailwind. A number of innovative wind prototypes have experienced brief blazes of media and industry attention only to struggle to reach the next level of development. Saphon Energy is another start-up making headlines recently for its imaginative technology and the story of its Tunisian founder, Anis Aouini.
Aouini founded the Tunisian-based company, which revolves around what he’s deemed “The Saphonian” –- a bladeless, circular body that wobbles in the wind, resembling a bare speaker blasting heavy bass. The example on the website is also plastered with the image of a sunflower. “By replacing the turbine blades by a sail-shaped body that enjoys high aerodynamic drag coefficient, our Zero-Blade device is capable of capturing twice as much wind kinetic energy as conventional bladed wind turbine for the same swept area,” reads the company description.
The Saphonian.CREDIT: SAPHON ENERGY
Aouini developed the technology during the 2011 Tunisian revolution, which offered the opportunity for companies without ties to the regime to break through, according to an interview he did with OZY. Aouini hopes his invention will inspire a new generation of Tunisian inventors. The Saphonian is slated to start commercializing this year, but going from earning the 2013 Innovation Prize for Africa to earning money in the global energy economy will not be easy.
“I would be highly, highly skeptical of such a device,” Scott Greene, director of the Oklahoma Wind Power Initiative, told OZY. “There have been a large number of alternative wind-energy designs over the years, and none has come close to matching the cost and effectiveness of the traditional design.”
Emily Williams, Senior Policy Analyst for the American Wind Energy Association, won’t speak directly about unproven technologies like the Saphonian, but is quick to point out the challenges companies like Saphon Energy and Sheerwind face.
“What developers and the wind industry want to see is a track record on how things like bladeless technologies work,” Williams said. “There’s a lot of new designs in the prototype phase that need to prove they can deliver and capture wind economically. If these turbines are designs just trying to appeal to Joe Smith to put in the backyard, that’s a different scale than if they want to have utility-scale application to sell power under 30-year contracts.”
The Wind Will Not Stop Blowing
As of October, the U.S. had 60 gigawatts (GW) of installed wind capacity, according to the Department of Energy. A one-megawatt wind turbine generates enough electricity to power 240 to 400 U.S. households, so one GW of wind energy could power between 240,000 and 400,000 U.S. homes.
Across the world, Europe has been a wind energy leader. As of February, the EU had 117.3 GW of installed wind energy capacity — 110.7 GW onshore and 6.6 GW offshore. With an average growth rate of 25 percent between 2006 and 2011, wind power was the fastest-growing renewable energy source, according to the International Energy Agency. At the end of 2013, global wind power capacity was 318 GW, up from just 18 GW at the turn of the millennium. A new study by Grand View Research, Inc. found that global capacity could reach 760 GW by 2020. China is seeing significant growth, as well, adding 14 GW to grid-connected wind power capacity in 2013, the fifth consecutive year with installations totaling over 10 GW, and an additional 56 GW of wind has already been permitted.
Wind turbines in Sweden in 1987.CREDIT: FLICKR/SUDGEG
Even though the wind power industry is itself still in the early stages of capitalizing on the enormous potential of wind as an energy resource, innovative start-up companies like Allaei’s Minnesota-based Sheerwind face innumerable challenges in breaking into the “747-on-a-flagpole” establishment of conventional turbines. Conventional wind turbines, on and and offshore, continue to undergo major technological innovation and process reevaluation in an effort to bring down costs and increase efficiency. The industry must keep pace with both fossil fuel power sources, one of the deepest-rooted economic paradigms, and other renewable sources, such as solar and geothermal. As wind energy gains more of a foothold, the people who operate the electric grid will have to deal with more and more energy that does not come at the push of a button. So the wind industry will also need to improve on storage capacity and reliability that are currently provided by fossil fuels like natural gas.
Along the way, wind companies, technologies, and even subsidies will rise and fall but the growth of wind power around the world is indisputable. This despite the influence of certain outside forces such as anti-clean energy lobbying groups like ALEC or billionaires concerned about obstructed views from their Cape Cod mansions.
Innovating Through Uncertainty
Meanwhile, in the world of traditional, ’30-year contract’ type wind technology there’s a lot of research into new designs to reduce weight, scale up offshore technology and optimize energy output, according to Williams. Furthermore, companies like IBM and GE are taking data collected from turbines and developing software algorithms to do things like optimize wind capture by adjusting and turning blades through independent controls.
GE is currently developing a space frame wind turbine tower that is built out of struts locked together. The structure can accommodate heavy weight, like turbine blades, while using 20 to 30 percent less steel than conventional turbine towers. The space frame can also be shipped in pieces that can fit in long-haul trailers, reducing complex transportation logistics associated with conventional turbine towers and making installation faster and easier.
“People are trying to innovate on turbine design around the world,” Williams said. “As you scale up traditional wind turbines there’s neat research happening into segmented blades to address some of the transportation challenges of moving big blades.”
Williams said that in the last five years, the portion of U.S. wind turbines made domestically has gone from one-fourth to three-fourths, in terms of value, in large part because of how expensive it is to move components. International firms such as Vestas and Siemans have set up facilities in the Midwest while several U.S. companies that formally specialized in yacht building have transitioned to manufacturing these molded fiberglass towers.
Aside from the physical challenges of hauling yacht-length behemoths, there are similarly complex financial and political routes to navigate.
“For a number of years we had policy stability that really incentivized companies to come to the U.S.,” Williams said. “2012 was the wind industry’s best year ever, but in 2013 that fell dramatically because of federal inaction to extend the Production Tax Credit.”
The Production Tax Credit (PTC), a federal renewable electricity production tax credit, expired at the end of 2013 due to inaction by Congress. The credit offers generators of certain renewable energies, such as wind, 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour in an effort to support development of these industries. Originally enacted as part of the Energy Policy Act of 1992, Congress has extended the provision five times and let it expire five times, the most recent expiration being December 2013.
“This on-again/off-again status has resulted in a boom-bust cycle of development,” wrote the Union of Concerned Scientists earlier this year. “In the years following expiration, installations dropped between 76 and 93 percent, with corresponding job losses.”
Short-term extensions of the PTC are insufficient for sustaining the long-term growth of renewable energy, the statement says, arguing that developers depending on the PTC to attain cost effectiveness may hesitate to start new projects due to the uncertainty of the enterprise. Wind power prices continue to drop in the meantime, and have fallen 43 percent in the last few years according to Williams. Wind power came within 5.5 percent of the cost of electricity from coal at the end of 2013, according to a Bloomberg analysis, and is 90 percent cheaper than it was twenty years ago.
The U.S. is not the only country scaling back wind power subsidies. In this time of low political drive, the emergence of low-wind technology may help carry the industry through to the next boom as it approaches cost competitiveness and overcomes hurdles like a lack of transmissions lines.
“We’ve seen growth in the last few years in some places that haven’t had wind,” Williams said. “Taller towers made wind economical in Ohio, for instance. Projects are also being pursued across the Southeast, which has a great manufacturing footprint, but is a lower wind resource.”
Low-wind technology has developed via key innovations to existing technologies, such as longer, thinner blades and redesigned load control. “Such additions of innovative product features to previous designs is an ongoing trend in the wind industry, requiring less time for R&D than a full redesign, and cutting risk and cost,” writes Eize de Vries in a recent article about advanced wind power technology for Wind Power Monthly. “While the risks of incremental developments are often significantly lower, long-term advancement of technology also requires radical innovative designs,” she explains. “Higher initial overall risks and costs can be expected, but the developers and investors can also expect superior, longer-term overall gains.”
Makani Power.CREDIT: SCREENSHOT/MAKANI POWER VIDEO
Having The Power To Break Through
One area where high-risk innovation and deep financial resources overlap is with the company Makani Power. The U.S. Department of Energy-funded wind power start-up that uses kite-bound, airborne wind turbines was purchased by Google last May. While the turbine requires massive amounts of space to operate and is up against a number of wind variability challenges, Williams considers it one of the most realistic alternatives to traditional turbines. Makani Power declined to comment for this article, saying they are not currently talking to the press.
As part of Google X, the division of Google devoted to breakthrough technologies, the Makani Airborne Wind Turbine is in the hands of the same select people working on Google Glass. Resembling a radio-controlled propeller plane tethered to a generator, the device circumscribes a large circle in the sky sending power down to the ground all the while. In a stormy sky, one would almost expect to see Ben Franklin holding the other end of the cord, celebrating the discovery of electricity all over again.
However, the Makani turbine wouldn’t need Franklin around, as it’s a fully autonomous flight system and can land itself in the case of poor flying conditions. One more innovation to add to the list.
From the Pacific Coast to the Texas panhandle to the Atlantic Ocean, wind power is on the rise in the United States, producing an increasing share of our electricity with minimal impact on the environment.
Just a decade ago, wind energy was a trivial part of the nation’s electricity picture. Today, wind energy is the fastest growing form of electricity generation and an increasingly important part of the nation’s energy mix. Last year, wind generated as much electricity as is used each year in the state of Georgia.
The boom in wind power is no accident, however. State and federal lawmakers have implemented far-sighted public policies, such as the federal production tax credit and our state’s renewable electricity standard, that have created the conditions under which wind energy can thrive. By unleashing the energies of innovative companies and American workers, and tapping the natural power of the wind, these public policies are moving the nation toward a clean energy future and delivering growing benefits for our environment, our health and our economy.
With the production tax credit in place, the generation and use of wind power has dramatically increased, reducing our reliance on fossil fuels, driving innovation and economic development, lowering costs and providing important environmental benefits – including carbon reductions and water savings.
Between 2007 and 2012, U.S. wind capacity tripled, representing an annual average investment of $18 billion. Tax credits have helped drive American manufacturing. Today, more than 550 manufacturing facilities located in 44 states produce 72 percent of the wind turbines and components installed in the United States, up from 25 percent in 2006.
Nowhere has this growth been greater than in Texas, which today leads the nation in wind energy. Wind energy has brought new jobs, new revenue for land-owners, a cleaner environment and lower electricity prices to Texas.
Working for turbine manufacturers like DeWind and Alstom, blade manufacturer Molded Fiber Glass, several tower manufacturers, numerous component suppliers and truck drivers and port workers delivering equipment through the Port of Houston, today more than 10,000 Texans work for the wind industry.
Texas’ wind boom has coincided with a 26 percent decline in electricity prices over the past four years. A 2012 report by the Brattle Group found that wind energy had reduced wholesale power prices in west Texas.
Wind energy is also helping clean up our air in Texas. In 2012, wind in Texas averted more than 18,000 tons of smog-forming nitrogen oxides, 22,000 tons of sulfur dioxide and 19 million tons of carbon dioxide from the state’s power sector, helping Texans breathe easier.
Amid a record drought, wind energy is also helping conserve water. Fossil fueled power plants use a huge amount of water for cooling, reducing the amount of water available for irrigation, wildlife, recreation or domestic use. In fact, more water is withdrawn from U.S. lakes, rivers, streams and aquifers for the purpose of cooling power plants than for any other purpose. But wind uses no water at all and last year, Texas wind saved 8.6 billion gallons of water – enough to fill Reliant Stadium more than 12 1/2 times.
Wind energy has also helped out in a crisis. In 2011, when cold temperatures forced the shutdown of numerous fossil fuel-fired power plants, Texas’ wind turbines continued to generate electricity, helping keep the lights on.
The benefits from investing in wind energy are endless for a state with as much natural wind resource as we have. It’s a smart investment and if we are to continue to reap the benefits, Congress needs to renew the tax credits that make it possible.
(Credit: Rachael Stone, Rachel Stone is the Clean Energy Attorney for Environment Texas, a statewide advocate for clean air, clean water and open spaces.)
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A Seattle company is being given the green light to develop plans to build the West Coast’s first offshore wind energy farm — five floating turbines off Oregon’s Coos Bay, federal and state officials said Wednesday.
The 30-megawatt pilot project was announced at a press conference by Gov. John Kitzhaber, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Director Tommy Beaudreau.
Though offshore wind farms are an expensive source of energy, proponents say they could bring clean, efficient electricity, create new jobs and stimulate the economy.
“It’s not going to be economic out of the gate,” Beaudreau said. But “it’s important for Oregon to be on the edge of what could be a huge industry in the future.”
The pilot project will be developed by Seattle-based Principle Power using floating wind turbine technology that has not been deployed in U.S. waters but is in use or under development in Europe and Asia.
The Oregon facility would be 15 miles from shore, in about 1,400 feet of water. The turbines would be connected by electrical cables and have a power cable to transmit electricity to the mainland.
The turbine towers would rise 600 feet to the highest point of the blade tip.
Several offshore projects are in the works on the Atlantic coast, but they don’t use floating platform technology. Instead, they are anchored to the seabed.
Experts say the West Coast has not yet seen offshore wind projects because the technology needs are different.
The ocean gets deeper more quickly on the West Coast, so turbine towers cannot be planted directly into the seabed, said Belinda Batten, director of the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center at Oregon State University. Instead, companies need to use devices supported on floating platforms.
Another challenge in bringing the technology to Oregon, where cheap hydropower from dams is plentiful, is the price tag. But that should not be a deterrent, Batten said.
“We’re not as anxious to commercialize it, but it’s still worth getting the projects into the water and testing them,” she said. “As we learn how to deploy and maintain them, the price will come down.”
In December 2012, Principle Power, Inc. received $4 million in Department of Energy funding for the project — one of seven to receive funding and the only one on the West Coast. The DOE plans to select up to three of the proposals to go forward with an additional $46.6 million dollars.
The Seattle company submitted a request to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management for a commercial wind energy lease in May 2013. Since other developers were not interested in constructing wind facilities in the same area, the company may now submit a plan under the noncompetitive process. The federal agency will then complete an environmental analysis, which includes opportunity for public comment, before making a final decision.
Fishermen on the southern Oregon coast have agreed to support the project, but concerns remain, said Steve Bodnar, executive director of the Coos Bay Trawlers’ Association.
“Albatross and other birds could be chopped up in the turbines. And we still don’t know if the sound or the electricity will interfere with sensitive species like salmon, Dungeness crab and whales,” Bodnar said. “We’re hoping to learn from this… whether it justifies wrecking prime fishing ground, displacing people and jobs.”
Offshore wind power has been the new frontier in renewable energy. Proponents say better wind speeds are available at sea than on land, creating more electricity than other projects. The turbines are less noisy and less visible than on land.
The industry has grown chiefly in Europe, where several dozen offshore wind farms operate. China is also developing projects. In November, Japan revved up a wind farm off the coast of Fukushima.
In the U.S., several offshore wind farms are in the works off the Atlantic coast. In Nantucket Sound off Cape Cod, a company has been cleared to build 130 turbines that would supply 75 percent of the power for Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. In Rhode Island, a five-turbine farm off Block Island that would generate electricity for about 10,000 homes is being planned.
New Jersey is considering a pilot 25-megawatt, six-turbine offshore wind farm to be built 2.8 miles off Atlantic City. And the University of Maine and partners plan to build two turbines generating 12 megawatts of power south of Monhegan Island. The university has launched a prototype wind turbine off the coast near Castine.
Last year, the federal government auctioned leases for ocean sections where projects can be developed — including off the coasts of Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Virginia. Auctions off the coasts of Maryland, New Jersey and Massachusetts are expected in 2014.
Meanwhile, another ocean-energy project off the Oregon coast has stalled.