Friday, April 27, 2007

MidAmerican Gives Wind Power a Boost

MidAmerican Energy, a major investor-owned utility based in Iowa, said April 19 that it will add another 540 megawatts (MW) of wind power to the 460 MW it already owns. Iowa Gov. Chet Culver (D) is calling for "regulators, business professionals and utility companies" to add 1,015 MW to the 1,000 MW already installed in the state for a total of 2,015 MW by the year 2015.

In announcing the utility's plans, MidAmerican President Greg Abel praised wind power for helping keep electricity rates stable: "In addition to the environmental benefit of adding new wind energy production in Iowa, customers of MidAmerican Energy will continue to benefit from electric rate stability. The last electric rate increase MidAmerican Energy customers experienced was in 1995, and we propose adding the new wind energy while maintaining electric rate stability until 2014, which is nearly 20 years of electric rate stability for MidAmerican Energy customers.” Wind power, which uses no fuel, is immune to price swings in global energy markets for oil, natural gas, or other fuels. This is a major benefit to utilities and customers alike, because it keeps energy prices more predictable.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Stepping Up the Global Warming Fight

I've been meaning to post here for a while about local activities here in the Upper Connecticut River Valley of Vermont-New Hampshire (known locally as the "Upper Valley") on Step It Up Day, a national day of demonstrations against global warming April 14.

We had a whole series of local events, in White River Junction, Norwich, Thetford (all in Vermont) and Hanover (New Hampshire), and I'm sure there were others. They wound up by feeding into a gathering of 300 or more folks on the Dartmouth College green in Hanover, where U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a member of the Senate committees on energy (Energy and Natural Resources) and the environment (Environment and Public Works) addressed the crowd. Sanders talked about the dramatic changes in Congress, exemplified by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), a committed environmentalist, replacing Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), who had previously called global warming "one of the greatest hoaxes ever perpetrated on mankind." Sanders said there is an urgent need to press ahead with the development of renewable energy sources like wind power and solar energy.

I was impressed by the commitment of those present--standing around for a couple of hours on a cold and windy day and even lining up to sign petitions urging Congress to cut U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide, the leading greenhouse gas, by 80% by 2050. You can get a good feel for the intensity of feeling in this region about global warming from the Step It Up map of action reports.

Here in Vermont, the folks from the Service Politics Institute also took part, installing compact fluorescent lightbulbs in a local affordable housing community.

Lots of people were involved, both here and nationwide. It was encouraging, but it's clear that we still need to vastly increase the numbers of folks who take these issues seriously.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Wind Power and Jobs in Michigan

Long day today, meeting in Michigan to talk about wind power and economic development. Wind would seem to be a perfect fit for the Great Lake State--many people expect it to be one of the largest sources of new manufacturing jobs in the 21st century. We know that fossil fuels are eventually going to run out and that they also carry substantial environmental costs, so there is no time like the present to be thinking about what comes next. Pennsylvania, Iowa and, most recently, Colorado have all managed to attract new wind turbine manufacturing plants in the last couple of years and there are likely to be many more built in the U.S. during the next decade--this country has a huge wind resource, with more energy than all of Saudi Arabia's oil, and it is only a matter of time until we get serious about making it into a mainstream energy supply source.

Perhaps the most interesting talk of the day came from a representative of Clipper Windpower, an Iowa-based manufacturer, who said that one of his company's major problems is keeping its supply of components flowing: "We could build more turbines if we could get the parts."

Monday, April 23, 2007

Green Power Credit Card Rewards

Wells Fargo & Co. said April 19 that it is rolling out a new green rewards program for users of its credit card. When users earn points for making purchases with the card, they can redeem them for renewable energy certificates. For example, the company said, "For 5,000 points, cardholders can support 6,000 kilowatt hours of green power . . . equivalent to the clean air benefits of three acres of pine forest storing carbon for one year." Wells Fargo is also the largest U.S. purchaser of green power, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's official listing.
More Retailers Go for Green Power

Baltimore, Md., retailer bluehouse said April 19 that it is going carbon-neutral, purchasing wind power certificates from Wind Current, a Baltimore company that sells renewable energy certificates to mid-Atlantic homes and businesses. Also in Maryland, Fitzgerald Auto Malls is buying clean energy from wind power for its 12 dealerships in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Florida, according to the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.

Good to see more and more companies joining the green power bandwagon--those of us concerned about environmental and energy issues owe them all a vote of thanks. Meanwhile, I'm heading to Michigan this evening for meetings of the National Wind Coordinating Collaborative (NWCC), a multi-stakeholder group that seeks to promote dialogue about issues relating to wind development in the U.S., and the Michigan Sustainable Business Forum. The NWCC meeting will include a forum on "Wind Energy and Economic Development," something that should be of huge interest in Michigan, given the struggles that state has had with declining employment in the auto industry.


Sunday, April 22, 2007

Yahoo Logo: Green for Earth Day

Check it out! For those who see this too late, the Y is represented by a wind turbine rotor, which spins and produces the electricity to power the exclamation point, which turns into a compact fluorescent lightbulb. Very cool.
Dutch Offshore Wind Farm Doing Well

Shell reports that the first offshore wind farm in the Netherlands is performing well, and that it has had no lasting impacts on marine life. The release is particularly interesting because it briefly describes some of the measurement systems that have been used to better understand effects on seals, porpoises, birds, etc. The facility is called the Egmond aan Zee Offshore Wind Farm and its success is encouraging, because the world's offshore wind resource is very large and could supply a large percentage of the electricity used in heavily populated coastal areas.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Student Environmental Association wants optional tuition charge for clean energy - News

Sounds like a great idea to me--giving college students the option to sign up to support wind power projects.
Wind Energy Works! Alliance

The Wind Energy Works! alliance is continuing to add new members. Formed 1-1/2 years ago, it now includes 85 organizations that exemplify the benefits that more wind power can mean for America's economy and society:

Ports: The Duluth (Minn.) Seaway Port Authority. Because U.S. government policies to encourage wind power have been inconsistent, many wind turbine components are imported rather than being manufactured. On the bright side, this means big business for ports, from Duluth to Galveston, Tex.

Agriculture: American Agri-Women, the American Corn Growers Association, Women Involved in Farm Economics (WIFE), the Nebraska Farmers Union, the Texas Farm Bureau, the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union Cooperative and more. Wind farms revitalize the economy of rural communities by providing steady income to farmers and other landowners. Each wind turbine contributes $2,000 to $4,000 or more in farm income, while 95-98% of the farm’s land remains free for crops or grazing.

Economic Development: The Columbia Gorge (Ore.) Economic Development Association, the Amarillo (Tex.) Chamber of Commerce and more. In addition to payments to farmers, wind farms support the local tax base, helping to pay for schools, roads and hospitals.

Clean Air: HealthLink, the American Lung Association of the Central States and more. Wind power is 100% clean, releasing none of the sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, particulates or mercury created when electricity is generated from fossil fuels.

Environment: Natural Resources Defense Council, Greenpeace, the Union of Concerned Scientists and more: Wind power requires no mining or drilling for fuel, causes no air, water or global warming pollution, creates no hazardous waste, and requires no water to generate electricity. Its benefits to the environment, compared with other electricity sources, are overwhelming.

Faith: The Regeneration Project/Interfaith Power & Light, Texas Impact. As the religious community becomes more concerned about the need for environmental stewardship, clean energy is an obvious place to start.

These groups and many more have become part of the clean power movement through membership in Wind Energy Works!. If you know of a group that you feel should be affiliated with Wind Energy Works!, please let us know by posting a comment here or writing to

Friday, April 13, 2007

Wind Power News Nuggets

It's been an unusual week for wind power news items. Besides the big stuff, like Spanish utility giant Iberdrola acquiring wind developer CPV Wind Ventures, LLC, there were a number of interesting smaller tidbits ("straws in the wind?"). Here are a few:

Eagles Soar With Wind: The Philadelphia Eagles will reimburse their employees who live in local areas of Pennsylvania and New Jersey for purchasing wind power for their households. Eagles owner Christina Lurie notes that the environmental impact of professional sports games is huge (driving, trash, etc.) and that they provide a great educational opportunity. . . .

Man Avoids Jail Due to Wind: Not going to link to this one or mention any names so as not to cause further embarrassment, but it's true. A man convicted of driving under the influence received a suspended sentence this week, at least in part because he said he is a construction worker and will be starting work on a wind farm soon, enabling him to promptly pay his fine . . .

Dutch Firm Introduces Wind-Powered Light: Dutch design firm Demakers has developed a self-contained wind-powered lighting fixture (click on "Light Wind" after following the link), saying you can enjoy it "every summer evening until forever" . . .

Burgerville Wind Promo: OK, maybe this isn't new, but it's news to us: Burgerville, a restaurant chain in the Portland, Ore., area that is buying 100% wind power, has a promo going where children buying happy meals receive a printed card describing a wind farm and wind energy and decals to stick on it. . . .

Hope you had a good week, too.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Planet Green Game

Starbucks and Global Green, a nonprofit supporting smart solutions to global warming, today announced the launch of Planet Green Game. From the press release: "Through the online game – located at – players can explore a virtual world and learn how everyday decisions by individuals, cities, schools and businesses can impact the climate and environment. The game offers real-world examples of how individuals can change their own behavior and also influence the actions of community, political and corporate leaders to engage in the effort to stop global warming."

Take a look at the entire press release for a detailed description of the game. I don't know when, if ever, I'll have the time to thoroughly check it out, but at first glance, it sounds fascinating. If you do look at it and are so inclined, let me know what you think.

(Later . . . )

But wait, there's more. The New York Times reported today that Discovery Communications, which operates the Discovery Channel, plans to start "a 24-hour channel focused on eco-friendly living, as part of a push into the rising environmental movement." By a remarkable coincidence(?), the new channel is part of a broader internal company program called . . . "PlanetGreen."

The following quote from David M. Zaslav, Discovery's chief executive, caught my eye: "To be able to rebrand an existing channel and launch with over 50 million homes in 2008 is a big statement [about] where the world is today. Five years ago, people would have said 'who are those lefties talking about green?' Today, green means responsible."


The Times also reported that retail behemoth Wal-Mart has begun the "personal sustainability project," an internal program for its employees: "Over the next two years, Wal-Mart will ask all employees to adopt a pledge to improve their bodies, their families or their planet." The retailer has been surprised to find a far higher number of its employees signing up for the voluntary program than expected in the first dozen states in which it has been tested. Read the full article here. (for one week)

As Robin, Batman's superfluous sidekick, would have put it, "Holy Green Planet!"