Stories tagged renewable

If the leaves ever actually fall from the trees this autumn, it will be the last fall for us to use standard garbage bags to bundle them up here in the Twin Cities metro area. We're going green with yard wastes starting with in the spring due to a new state law. Read all about it here.

Windpower leader
Windpower leaderCourtesy ecstaticist

The United States overtook Germany as the biggest producer of wind power last year, new figures showed, and will likely take the lead in solar power this year, analysts said on Monday. Wind accounted for 42% of all new electricity generation installed last year in the U.S.
Another interesting change:
The wind industry now employs more people than coal mining in the United States. (click links in red to learn more).

Which forms of energy production should the government be subsidizing more? Nuclear or renewable technologies like wind and solar?


Electricity from wind was cheaper: I saved 44 cents on my July electric bill because 100 per cent of my electricity is from wind power.
Electricity from wind was cheaper: I saved 44 cents on my July electric bill because 100 per cent of my electricity is from wind power.Courtesy ARTiFactor

I saved money because my electricity comes from wind

About two years ago I signed up for Windsource (click to see my Buzz writeup). Windsource is an Xcel Energy program that allows customers to have all or part of their electricity come from wind (click here for details about windsource charges).

Benefits of wind energy

I did not sign up for Windsource to save money. I was willing to pay extra for wind generated electricity because wind energy has multiple benefits.

  • No carbon dioxide emissions
  • No sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, or mercury emissions
  • No water consumption requirement
  • Creates jobs
  • Creates income for farmers
  • Wind is forever (renewable)
  • Wind energy reduces need for importing energy and exporting dollars

Want to help promote wind energy?

Renewable energy credits have provided incentives for investments in wind energy. A federal production tax credit (PTC) has an expiration date less than five months from now. If you agree that continuing incentives for renewable energy is wise,

Urge your Members of Congress to extend the Production Tax Credit (PTC)

Click the link above for help on how to take action.


Rock-Tenn paper recycling plant loses steam.

Rock-Tenn biofuel study
Rock-Tenn biofuel study
Rock-Tenn currently uses steam heat generated by the coal fired Xcel High Bridge plant. When that source of steam is shut off this summer, Rock-Tenn will fire up its old boilers and begin burning fuel oil or natural gas. This will increase their energy costs by four to six million dollars annually but could go much higher depending upon the volatile international energy markets.

The Rock-Tenn plant processes half of all paper recycled in Minnesota (about 1000 tons per day). Rock-Tenn (formerly Waldorf Paper) employs about 500 people at an average salary of $60,000 and spends about $75 million on goods and services yearly.

St. Paul Port Authority, to the rescue.

The St. Paul Port Authority, a non-profit municipal corporation, with its mission of job creation and retention, plans to build a new fuel plant for Rock-Tenn. Big bucks are involved. Current estimates are about $140 million. District Energy, a private, non-profit corprtion, and Market Street Energy, its for-profit affiliate will run the Rock-Tenn power plant (they currently run the St. Paul district heating and cooling).

Law makers propose $4 million to study idea.

The proposed Midway biomass power plant picked up some steam May 1st when members of the Minnesota Legislature included $4 million to study the idea in their environment, energy, and natural resources bill. The bill also allows for regular input from four district councils (near University Avenue and Vandalia Street) and by business and labor interests.

Big, important issues involved.

Coming up with an environmentally friendly biomass source that is technically and economically workable is a task that involves many important issues.

Municipal waste disposal.
Resource Recovery Technologies (RRT) runs a processing plant in Newport, MN that converts municipal solid waste (MSW) to refuse-derived fuel (RDF). The RRT plant gets municipal solid wastes from Ramsey and Washington counties, which subsidize its operation. Read more about municipal waste disposal here.

Energy from renewable fuel sources.

Ramsey and Washington counties support an RDF fuel source for the Rock-Tenn plant as a way to provide both fuel for Rock-Tenn and a "market" for the counties' municipal solid wastes. Other biomass fuel choices exist—among them, woody wastes, agricultural wastes and crops grown specifically for fuel. The choice of fuel for the Rock-Tenn power plant has implications for the municipal solid waste system, but also for air quality, property taxes, agriculture and farmers, and the future of recycling. tcdailyplanet

Who pays? Who profits?
The St. Paul Port Authority, Ramsey County, Washington County and the City of St. Paul are among the public entities whose decisions factor in the process, including decisions on financing and public subsidies. I recommend reading TCPlanet's, "Follow the money" and "Keeping track of the players".

Environmental impacts.
A proposal would need to be made to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) with an Environmental Assessment Worksheet. After the MPCA evaluates this worksheet, it will decide whether a full-scale (time-consuming and expensive) Environmental Impact Statement is necessary.

"a biomass plant has impacts both 'upstream' and 'downstream' of the plant. Upstream impacts include the impacts of growing, harvesting, processing and transporting the biomass. ... Downstream impacts include noise and health impacts from air and water emissions and ash disposal. Air emissions have the most significant downstream impacts." Green Institute study(pdf)

What do you think?

Refuse-derived fuel, known as RDF, raises health and quality of life issues, issues that hopefully will be resolved with fully informed, scientific reasoning. You can get started by following some of the links above.


Renewable fuel
Renewable fuel

Iron Range generator burns local wood

If you shop locally, your dollars help your local economy, creating jobs, cash flow, and tax revenues. Electric utilities in Hibbing and Virginia, working jointly as the Laurentian Energy Authority, plan to buy local wood to fuel their electric generators. They hold a contract to sell 35 megawatts of biomass power to Xcel Energy.

According to early reports, the project is anticipated to bring in more than $704 million over 20 years, with $20 million spent in labor, fuel and materials. Up to 70 jobs are expected to be retained, with a possibility of 100-plus new jobs in the wood yard, transportation and tree growth parts of the operation.

Local representative Tony Sertich, commented on the project. “We tend to look for a win-win situation, but I say it’s a win to the power of four. This project is about economy, environment, economic development and innovation.”

$25 million tree farm

The Biomass Mandate from the Prairie Island Nuclear Power Plant compromise from 1994 requires that 25% of the fuel must come from closed-loop biomass, aka tree farms specifically grown for this project. About $25 million was anticipated to be invested in tree farms for the project. One of the farms is in Aitkin.

District heating, too

Excess heat generated by the project will provide district heating for the two cities. Word on the street is that the electricity contract is in excess of 10 cents/kWh. Commercial operation is slated for year’s end.

Source articles via Solar Kismet
Making Biomass a Reality Mesabi Daily News
Bring on Biomass Hibbing Daily Tribune
Iron Range biomass projects unveiled StarTribune


Farming the Wind: photo by Dirk Ingo Franke.   licensed under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 1.0
Farming the Wind: photo by Dirk Ingo Franke. licensed under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 1.0

Is wind a good cash crop?

At the State Fair I observed as several farmers were researching whether a 1.5 million dollar wind turbine would make them money. The biggest factor was how much wind was available where they lived.The break even point was if they had better than 7.5 mph average wind speeds( see map pdf). Apparently several banks and also John Deere are financing projects if the numbers look good. Power companies will give a 20 year contract to buy electricity. The wind generators usally have a life expectancy of 25 years. Most farmers pay back the loan in ten years, then can reap profits of over $100,000 a year for the next 15 years. Sounds tempting, doesn't it?

An Iowa company hopes to build a $200 million wind farm.

Iowa Winds LLC hopes to build a 200- to 300-megawatt farm covering about 40,000 acres in Franklin County.

Company officials said the farm could be the nation's largest -- depending on the permits and the county's power grid infrastructure. If the county approves the project, construction would start next spring and take about a year, said Franklin County Supervisor Michael Nolte. LiveScience

Texas leads the nation with 2,370 megawatts of wind energy installed and California has 2,323 megawatts (American Wind Association). Iowa is in third place with 836 megawatts. Minnesota is fourth with 794 megawatts. The total United States capacity is about 10,000 megawatts. These numbers and rankings are changing. Wind energy output is growing by about 30 percent a year globally.

Want more? Go to the Minnesota Dept. of Commerce wind energy information web page.