Change in the Wind You Can Believe In

Source of Article:http://www.informationweek.com/blog/main/archives/2009/02/change_in_the_w.html, 2/26/2009

Change In The Wind You Can Believe In

Posted by Kevin Ferguson, Feb 26, 2009 10:54 AM


PricewaterhouseCoopers says the winds of change that have blown a few clean-tech IPOs off course aren't strong enough to stop the renewable energy market from moving ahead. That includes wind power. Certainly, Intel (NSDQ: INTC), Cisco (NSDQ: CSCO), Google (NSDQ: GOOG), and other high-tech companies agree and continue to invest in wind and other renewables. There is, however, still that pesky question of a new, or revitalized, electrical grid.

"We need to have long-term solutions," Denise Bode, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association, told a blue-ribbon panel gathered by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. "We need to send a signal to the business community, a long-term signal that will provide the kind of certainty to the business community." That signal, according to the former Oklahoma Corporation Commission member -- and former president of the Independent Petroleum Association of America -- is a federal tax policy that consistently promotes renewable energy. Historically, incentives have been given to renewable energy only to be withdrawn by the next administration. "It's been like Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown," says Bode.

It also must include a Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards (RPS), says Bode. Under Renewable Energy Standards, utilities must derive a certain percentage of their generation from renewable resources like wind, creating guaranteed demand for renewable power. At the moment 28 states have RPSs and another five have renewable energy goals.

Last year, 8,300 megawatts of wind power came online in the United States, according to Bode. At the same time, 70 manufacturing facilities were added in the wind industry, adding 35,000 new jobs to an existing base of 50,000 wind-power-related jobs, says Bode. According to the PwC report, investment in wind energy generation companies grew to $115 million in nine deals in 2007, up from $10 million and three deals in 2006 and $780,000 and a single deal in 2005. Everpower Renewables Corp., which develops utility-grade wind energy projects, was the highest-funded wind energy company in 2007, receiving $55 million from investors.

Not only must states adopt RPS for this whole thing to work, but the electrical grid needs to be expanded and upgraded. Those upgrades must include greater capacity and geographic coverage, as well as "smart grid" technology that enables the efficient routing and re-routing of electricity where it is needed. Roger N. Anderson of Columbia University explains in this Pew Center on Global Climate Change and the National Commission on Energy Policy workshop:

"Such sources cannot be simply added to the existing grid -- it is not smart enough. The management of the grid will require digital control, automated analysis of problems, and automatic switching capabilities more familiar to the Internet (like the routers sold by Cisco that break messages into packets and send them over several different routes to relieve congestion, only to reassemble them at the destination into your next e-mail)."
Currently, almost 300,000 MW of wind projects, more than enough to meet 20% of our electricity needs, are waiting in line to connect to the grid because there is inadequate transmission capacity to carry the electricity they would produce, according to the American Wind Energy Association.