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The Department of Energy (DOE) announced on December 17 that it has selected 24 states, including Montana, to receive a total of $7 million to support the adoption of updated, energy-efficient building codes. The funding will expand the existing partnerships between states and the federal government and help states to more rapidly adopt new residential and commercial building codes, as well increase compliance with those codes. As part of the Administration’s broad efforts to help families and businesses save money by saving energy, these awards will help states and local communities significantly cut the energy intensity of the nation’s buildings sector, which accounts for more than 40 percent of the energy consumed in the U.S. Montana will receive $141,705.
This technical assistance through the Department’s Building Energy Codes program is being funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) will provide the selected states with up to $350,000 in technical assistance that include activities such as code trainings for the building community and adoption outreach to policy makers. Each state has committed to work with DOE to advance adoption, training, and compliance for the updated building codes. Read the full news release.
U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu today announced that a partial loan guarantee for a $1.3 billion loan has been finalized to support the world's largest wind farm. The loan will finance the Caithness Shepherds Flat project, an 845-megawatt wind generation facility located in eastern Oregon sponsored by Caithness Energy, LLC and GE Energy Financial Services. According to company estimates, the project will directly employ 400 workers during construction and 35 workers during operation. The company projects the wind farm will avoid over 1.2 million tons of carbon dioxide per year, equivalent to the amount of carbon dioxide from approximately 200,000 passenger vehicles. Read more.
Chevrolet recently announced plans to invest $40 million in various clean energy projects throughout the United States during the next three to five years. The carmaker said its goal is to reduce 8 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions, or the amount of CO2 generated during one year of electricity use in nearly 1 million homes. The initiative will focus on projects that promote energy savings, renewable energy, and responsible use of natural resources.
The company said it would consider projects including providing energy efficient technology such as smart energy sensors and solar panels to schools and other community-based facilities, supporting wind farms and solar projects, and capturing methane from landfills. Chevy will be making investments through third-party organizations such as Bonneville Environmental Foundation, a nonprofit organization based in Portland, Oregon. To define project criteria and the program’s investment portfolio, Chevy's parent company General Motors has engaged environmental experts, non-government organizations, and academics through the Climate Neutral Business Network consultants. See the Chevy press release and its carbon reduction website.
Montana's senior U.S. Senator Max Baucus introduced a bill on December 2 to permanently cut taxes for middle-class taxpayers and help Montana businesses create jobs by extending critical tax cuts for employers. The provisions of Baucus' bill, the Middle Class Tax Cut Act of 2010, include tax breaks to support Montana's energy development, a federal incentive for 30 percent of project costs for renewable power projects like wind and biomass. The bill also extends a $1.00 per gallon tax credit for biodiesel production, and a 10-cents-per -gallon tax credit for small agri-biodiesel producers. Read the full press release.
The United States should prepare a federal energy policy and update it regularly, according to a report released on November 29 by the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). Accelerating the Pace of Change in Energy Technologies Through an Integrated Federal Energy Policy provides a roadmap for the federal role in transforming the U.S. energy system within one to two decades. In the report, PCAST calls for regular strategic Quadrennial Reviews of energy policy similar to the quadrennial reviews produced regularly by the U.S. Department of Defense. The first one is targeted for early 2015. The group—which includes presidentially appointed experts from academia, non-governmental organizations, and industry—recommends a DOE-level version of the review by June 1, 2011, focused on DOE's activities. The federal plan is needed because of economic competitiveness, environmental stewardship, and national security, the authors said.
The new report recommends significantly increasing federal investments in energy-related research and development, urging an increase from the current level of approximately $5 billion per year to about $16 billion per year. The report also suggests the president engage the private sector, consumer representatives, and Congress in exploring options to provide new revenue streams that could support the development of more efficient energy technologies.
Accelerating the Pace of Change responds in part to a fall 2009 request by Secretary of Energy Steven Chu to review the nation's current approach to energy-related innovation and to recommend ways to accelerate the transformation of the U.S energy system to a more sustainable model. PCAST concluded that the transformation is being slowed both by the large number of federal policies that affect the development, implementation, and use of energy technologies and by the lack of coordination among the many departments and agencies with responsibilities under those policies. To facilitate planning, the Executive Office of the President would lead the Quadrennial Energy Reviews, and DOE would provide a secretariat. A main focus should be on promoting widespread use of new technologies that have proven worthy of scale-up, PCAST said. See the White House press release and the PCAST website, which includes an executive summary and the full report.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on November 29 finalized the 2011 percentage standards for the four categories of fuel under the agency's renewable fuel standard program, known as RFS2. The four fuel categories are cellulosic biofuel, biomass-based diesel, advanced biofuel, and renewable fuel. Based on an analysis of expected market availability, EPA set a 2011 cellulosic volume that is lower than the statutory target. Overall, EPA said it remains optimistic that the commercial availability of cellulosic biofuel will continue to grow.
The Energy Independence and Security Act amended the Clean Air Act to greatly increase the total volume of renewable fuels required each year, reaching a level of 36 billion gallons in 2022. To achieve these volumes, EPA calculates percentage-based standards for the following year. Based on the standards, each producer and importer of gasoline and diesel determines the minimum volume of renewable fuel that it must ensure is used in its transportation fuel. The final 2011 overall volume and standards are: cellulosic biofuel, 6.6 million gallons (0.003%); biomass-based diesel, 800 million gallons (0.69%); advanced biofuel, 1.35 billion gallons (0.78%); and renewable fuel, 13.95 billion gallons (8.01%). See the EPA press release and RFS webpage.
Northrop Grumman Corporation, in collaboration with Rocky Mountain Supercomputing Centers (RMSC) in Butte, has formed the Maximizing and Optimizing Renewable Energy (M.O.R.E.) POWER initiative. The initiative leverages RMSC's on-demand supercomputing resources and Northrop Grumman's unique site selection tool to help identify the most efficient and productive networks of wind and solar farms for renewable energy projects. With support from the Montana Governor's Office of Economic Development for a proof of concept, it has been demonstrated that M.O.R.E. POWER can reduce the financing and operating costs of a network of wind energy farms and accelerate their return on investment. Read the full news release.
NorthWestern Energy is predicting energy prices will be about the same this winter heating season as they were last year and perhaps even slightly lower, which is good news for customers.
However, with initial weather forecasts warning of a colder, wetter winter this year compared to last year, the company is encouraging customers to make their homes as energy efficient as possible to help mitigate the effects of weather.
“The price of natural gas and electricity is an important component of customer bills and people should be concerned about them,” said Bobbi Schroeppel, Vice President of Customer Care, Communications and Human Resources. “However, if the weather is colder than last year, heating equipment will be working harder and consuming more energy to maintain temperature.”
That’s why the company encourages customers to install low-cost and no-cost energy savings measures around their home before winter sets in, especially those who live in older homes that are likely to be less efficient than new homes. This includes installing window plastic, caulking around doors and windows, installing new or replacing worn door sweeps, installing foam gaskets in sockets, and installing insulation foam to seal leaks. Read more.
Invenergy recently applied for a permit to construct a 24-megawatt wind farm near Great Falls, according to The Montana Standard. Based in Chicago, Invenergy says it expects the $50-million project to create 100 jobs during construction, and also to generate some $18 million in economic benefits, such as property taxes and construction contracts. Called the Big Otter Wind Energy Project, the wind farm, if approved, would be located on 3,500 acres south of Belt. Read the full story.
Interior Department Approves Seventh Large Solar Project on U.S. Public Lands
The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) on November 4 approved the Genesis Solar Energy Project, a 250-megawatt facility in California that will use parabolic trough solar thermal technology to produce clean energy. The project, the seventh on U.S. public lands, is expected to power 75,000–187,500 homes and generate 1,085 jobs at peak construction, along with 50 permanent positions. Proposed by Genesis Solar LLC, a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources, the facility will be located on nearly 1,950 acres of public land near Riverside County, California. The project's parabolic trough technology uses rows of parabolic mirrors that focus solar energy on collector tubes. The tubes carry heated oil to a boiler, which sends live steam to a traditional steam turbine generator, which produces electricity. DOI's decision authorized the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to offer Genesis Solar a right-of-way grant to use the public lands for 30 years if all rents and other conditions are met. Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act's payments in lieu of tax credits for specified energy program, Genesis Solar can apply for payments of up to 30% of the eligible costs of the project, about $300 million. Read the press release.
DOE and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released on November 3 the 2011 Fuel Economy Guide. The listing provides information about estimated mileage and fuel costs for model year 2011 vehicles. For the first time, the guide includes medium-duty passenger vehicles, which are generally large sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and passenger vans. EPA and DOE will provide additional fuel economy information online as more information about 2011 vehicles, including electric and plug-in hybrid cars, becomes available. Read the press release.
Vice President Biden launched on November 9 DOE's Home Energy Score pilot program, designed to offer homeowners reliable information about their homes' energy efficiency. Under the voluntary program, a report provides consumers with a home energy score between 1 and 10, and shows them how their homes compare to others in their region. The report includes customized, cost-effective recommendations that will help to reduce homeowners' energy costs and improve the comfort of their homes.
The Home Energy Score program will empower trained and certified contractors to use a standardized assessment tool developed by DOE and DOE's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. With the tool, contractors can quickly evaluate a home and generate useful, actionable information for homeowners and prospective homebuyers. With only about 40 required inputs, the tool lets a contractor analyze a home's energy assets, such as its heating and cooling systems, insulation levels, and more, usually in less than an hour. A score of "10" represents a home with excellent energy performance, while a "1" represents a home that will benefit from major energy upgrades. Along with the score, the homeowner will receive a list of recommended home energy upgrades and specific improvements, as well as the estimated utility bill savings, payback period, and greenhouse gas emission reductions. Read the press release.
Northwest ENERGY STAR has announced that it is currently accepting applications for the 2010/2011 regional Northwest ENERGY STAR Homes awards. Applications will be accepted through December 31, 2010. This year’s award categories include Montana Home Builder of the Year, Northwest ENERGY STAR Home Regional Builder of the Year, Northwest ENERGY STAR Home of the Year, and Northwest ENERGY STAR Verifier of the Year. Winners will be featured on the Northwest ENERGY STAR website and BuilderNEWS. Click here for complete application, eligibility ,and category details.
A new study by the Global Wind Energy Council and Greenpeace International reports that wind could meet 12% of global power demand by 2020, and up to 22 percent by 2030. The "Global Wind Energy Outlook 2010" (GWEO 2010), announced October 12, finds that wind power could play a key role in meeting the world's increasing power demand while also achieving major greenhouse gas emissions reductions. The 1,000 gigawatts (GW) of wind power capacity projected to be installed by 2020 would preclude the emission of as much as 1.5 billion tons of CO2 every year. By 2030, the world would be spared a total of 34 billion tons of CO2 by 2,300 GW of wind power capacity. Read the full press release.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced a series of measures on October 21 to promote production of biofuels from renewable sources. USDA will publish a final rule to implement the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP), which has operated as a pilot since 2009. Under the BCAP final rule, USDA will resume making payments to eligible producers. Authorized in the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, BCAP is designed to ensure that a sufficiently large base of new, non-food, non-feed biomass crops is planted to meet future demand for renewable energy consumption. The overall goal of the measure is to create jobs and mitigate the effects of climate change. Read the full press release.
NorthWestern Energy Promotes Benefits of Saving Energy at Butte Home Energy Expo
In an effort to help Montana residents become more energy-efficient this winter, NorthWestern Energy is inviting customers to attend a Home Energy Expo in Butte on Saturday, October 30. The event is scheduled to run from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the Civic Center located at 1340 Harrison Ave. According to Bill Thomas, manager regulatory support services for NorthWestern Energy, the Home Energy Expo will feature several booths, displays and activities designed to help customers save energy and control costs. “This is where our customers can learn about energy usage in their home, how to get ready for winter, and perhaps qualify for federal and state tax incentives,” says Thomas. “We’ll also be distributing free Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs (CFLs) to our residential electric customers who’ve not received them earlier in 2010, and sharing information about NorthWestern Energy’s money-saving Efficiency Plus (E+) programs and rebates.”
Montana's senior U.S. Senator Max Baucus secured a commitment from Xinjiang Goldwind Science and Technology Company to send its senior U.S. executives to Montana to explore opportunities for locating a wind turbine production facility in the state. Baucus recently visited Goldwind headquarters outside Beijing and met with Goldwind Group CEO Wu Gang and Goldwind USA CEO Tim Rosenzweig.
"Montana is poised and ready to become a leader in wind energy production and that means good-paying jobs for Montana workers. Partnerships with innovative companies like Goldwind will go a long way toward supporting our efforts to put Montana on the map as a wind energy leader. I am proud to bring Goldwind's top brass to Montana to see for themselves all our great state has to offer," Baucus said. Read the full press release.
The Missoula Parking Commission has begun a three-month pilot project to test the use of solar-powered parking meters that accept credit cards. Forty-two such meters were installed. Motorists can pay the meters using either change, like conventional meters, or a debit/credit card. Read more.
What if you could produce some or all of your electricity from sun and/or wind? What if you could lower your gas bills by using the roof of your house as an energy collector? Or maybe you’re interested in exploring the new job markets of clean energy. In Montana, hundreds of homes and businesses are turning towards renewable energy to offset power bills and contribute to cleaner air, water, and soil. Christopher Borton of Sage Mountain Center is offering a free workshop titled Solar and Small Wind Generation in Montana, which covers solar electricity (photovoltaics) and small wind generation. Topics include design details, financing, rebates, and getting credit for the power you produce. Demo equipment, slide show with Q&A, and literature round out the evening. The workshop is being held at four separate locations. It is free of charge and no preregistration is necessary. All workshops times are 7-9 pm. Locations and dates are:
- Oct. 15, Great Falls, Hampton Inn, 2301 14 th St. SW
- Oct. 19, Bozeman, Holiday Inn, 5 Baxter Ln.
- Oct. 26, Missoula, Best Western Grant Creek Inn, 5280 Grant Creek Rd.
- Oct. 27, Helena Red Lion Colonial Hotel, 2301 Colonial Dr.
Email: email@example.com or call (406) 494-9875 for more information. Sponsored by Northwestern Energy USB Renewable Energy Program.
U.S. energy consumption increased by 2.7% for the first two quarters of 2010, relative to the first two quarters of 2009, according to DOE's Energy Information Administration (EIA). The EIA's "Monthly Energy Review," issued on September 30, finds that U.S. energy consumption totaled 48.8 quadrillion Btu (quads) for the first half of 2010, compared to 47.5 quads for the first half of 2009. But because U.S. energy use dipped sharply in 2009, the nation's energy use is still 3.9% less than the levels set in the first half of 2008. Read the full story.
DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has released a new report that comprehensively analyzes the key factors impacting the deployment of offshore wind power in the U.S. The report, Large-Scale Offshore Wind Power in the United States: Assessment of Opportunities and Barriers, includes a detailed assessment of the nation's offshore wind resources and offshore wind industry, including future job growth potential. The report also analyzes the technology challenges, economics, permitting procedures, and the potential risks and benefits of offshore wind power deployment in U.S. waters. The NREL report finds that harnessing even a fraction of the Nation's potential offshore wind resource, estimated to be more than 4,000 gigawatts, could create thousands of jobs and help revitalize America's manufacturing sector, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, diversify U.S. energy supplies, and provide cost-competitive electricity to key coastal regions. The report also reaches the conclusion that while significant challenges remain, effective research, policies and market commitment will enable offshore wind to play a significant role in the country's energy future. More information is available in the Executive Summary and full NREL report.
The new Montana Energy Code (2009 IECC with amendments) is now in effect statewide. The Montana Department of Environmental Quality will provide training training opportunities for builders, code officials and policy makers. For dates and locations, see DEQ's Calendar of Events.
In coordination with the ASES National Solar Tour on Oct. 2, SOLAR TODAY magazine's annual bonus issue, Get Started, is available online for free download. Learn the basics of solar, wind and energy efficiency, as well as solar economics, working with an installer, and careers in the solar industry. You can also access the 2011 Solar Buyer’s Guide. Start here.
SANYO North America Corporation (SANYO) announced on September 29 that it has provided five of its pedal-assist synergetic hybrid bicycles, the eneloop bike, to Xanterra Parks & Resorts (Xanterra), an organization that operates hotels, restaurants and activities in Yellowstone National Park located primarily in Wyoming, and extending into Montana and Idaho. The five eco-friendly bikes were given to the organization to help support its sustainability program for operations within the park. Read the full press release.
The U.S. Department of Energy and its National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have released two technical reports that provide recommendations on how to achieve 50% energy savings in large office buildings and large hospitals. Conducted by NREL's Commercial Buildings Group, under the direction of DOE's Building Technologies Program, the studies support DOE's goal of significantly improving the energy efficiency of new and existing commercial buildings across the United States. Read the full story.
Speaking at the 2010 Montana Economic Development Summit in Butte, U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu encouraged attendees—and indeed all Americans—to move toward renewable energy. As reported by the Billings Gazette, Chu told his audience that oil prices and demand will continue to increase, and that there are many reasons to reduce our consumption, such as global warming, increased carbon dioxide, and reduce oil reserves. “It will take decades to transition away from oil. Let’s not kid ourselves,” Chu said. “But let’s start now.” He estimates that renewable energy and capacity in America will double by 2012, and that Montana could play a significant role in providing the county with renewable energy. Read the full story.
The American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) released a report on September 14 that compiles data on renewable energy developments, resource potentials, and financial, market, and policy information on a state-by-state basis. The report, Renewable Energy in America, is intended to be an executive summary of the renewable energy sector in each state. The state summaries show the wide range of renewable energy development in the United States, ranging from Louisiana, with only 200 kilowatts of grid-connected solar power and production capabilities for 1.5 million gallons of biofuels per year, to California, with 2.7 gigawatts of wind power, 2.6 gigawatts of geothermal power, 1.1 gigawatts of grid-connected solar power, 705 megawatts of biomass power, and production capabilities for nearly 200 million gallons of biofuels per year. The report also notes the state policies that helped to accomplish that scale of deployment. ACORE will provide quarterly updates for the online, interactive report. Get the report.
An article in the September/October 2010 issue of Solar Today magazine weighs the pros and cons of third-party ownership and other options for PV system financing. The article can be read online here.
The United States used significantly more wind power and less fossil fuels in 2009 than in 2008, according to a report released on August 23 by DOE's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). There also was a decline in natural gas use and increases in solar energy, hydropower, and geothermal power, LLNL's most recent energy flow charts showed. The estimated U.S. energy use in 2009 equaled 94.6 quadrillion Btu ("quads"), down from 99.2 quads in 2008. (A Btu or British thermal unit is a unit of measurement for energy and is equivalent to about 1.055 kilojoules). The average American household uses about 95 million Btu per year. Wind power increased to .70 quads of primary energy in 2009 compared to .51 quads in 2008, most of which was tied to tied directly to electricity generation, helping decrease coal-fired electricity production. See the LLNL press release.
The Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has awarded $1 million in grants to four entities for projects that will further the development and marketability of renewable energy technologies in the state. The grants are funded with federal Recovery dollars. "Montana is rich in alternative energy potential." said DEQ Director Richard Opper. "The grants make it possible to move these projects from planning into production." The four grant applications scored highest among the 15 that were submitted in a highly competitive process according to Brian Spangler, Renewable Energy Section Manager at the DEQ. More…
Vice President Joe Biden on August 24 unveiled a new analysis showing that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act's $100 billion investment in innovation is helping accelerate significant advances in science and technology. According to The Recovery Act: Transforming the American Economy through Innovation , the United States is now on track to achieve three major energy innovation breakthroughs thanks to Recovery Act investments: cutting the cost of solar power in half by 2015; reducing the cost of batteries for electric vehicles by 70% between 2009 and 2015; and doubling U.S. renewable energy generation and renewable manufacturing capacity by 2012. Download the report.
The Rural Energy for America Program will provide funds to agricultural producers and rural small businesses to conduct feasibility studies for renewable energy systems. The Rural Energy for America Program is designed to help agricultural producers and rural small businesses reduce energy costs and consumption and help meet the nation’s critical energy needs. The grants are awarded on a competitive basis and can be up to 25 percent of total eligible project costs. Proposals are due October 5, 2010. More...
A new solar-powered sewage plant in Red Lodge is nearly complete, reports The Billings Gazette. Said to be the largest renewable energy project of its kind in the region, the plant is expected to produce about 48 kilowatts of electricity—roughly enough to power 15 homes. The city of Red Lodge received $511,186 in funding for the project through the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Additional funds came from a low-interest loan. Read the full story.
The U.S. wind power industry had a record-setting year in 2009, adding 10 gigawatts of new capacity and securing $21 billion in investments, a new DOE report shows. The cumulative wind power capacity grew 40% despite the economic turmoil throughout the year, according to the "2009 Wind Technologies Market Report," which was released on August 4. The analysis, from DOE's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), showed that for the fifth consecutive year, wind was second only to natural gas in adding new electrical capacity to the U.S. grid. Still, a sharp drop in wholesale electricity prices (due in part to lower natural gas prices) pressured the wind energy industry bottom line in 2009 and indicated challenges on the horizon. See the 2009 Wind Technologies Market Report (PDF 3 MB).
Butte College, a 21,000-student community college in Northern California, recently announced its intent to become the first U.S. "grid-positive" college. Administrators plan to produce more electricity by solar power than the school consumes by adding approximately 15,000 solar photovoltaic (PV) panels by May 2011. The new arrays will generate 2.7 megawatts (MW) of power—which when combined with the 1.85 MW already produced from 10,000 existing campus solar panels—will make Butte the largest solar-producing college in the world, the college said. The system approved by the schools' Board of Trustees will allow Butte to generate more than 6.4 million kilowatt-hours of electricity per year, which is enough to power more than 9,200 households. The school introduced PV to campus in 2005 and added to that over the years. Under the latest expansion, new solar panels will be installed on rooftops, on covered parking and walkways, and in ground arrays. The $17 million project will use $12.65 million in federal clean renewable energy bonds and American Recovery and Reinvestment Act allocations for the bulk of the cost. The remainder, up to $4.35 million, will be funded by college, which expects a $1 million rebate from PG&E, their utility provider, and the California Solar Initiative. See the Butte College press release.
Montana’s wind energy installations have gone from “virtually no functioning wind farms to a respectable 375 megawatts of wind power produced in the state as of May this year,” according to a recent article in The Montana Standard. Still, our neighbors are making greater gains, with Wyoming, North Dakota, Oregon, Washington and Minnesota adding as much as quadruple Montana’s wind power production. According to the article, adequate transmission lines are the biggest obstacle in increasing Montana’s wind energy installations. In addition, Montana’s distance from major markets and resistance of utilities to add wind energy to their portfolios also contribute. Governor Schweitzer, however, remains optimistic, saying, “Montana is moving faster than our neighbors on transmission. No place else has the quality of wind that we have. ... The interest in Montana projects has just exploded in recent years." While only one wind energy project has been completed in Montana over the last five years, several are in “various stages of development. Read the full story.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed on July 12 the 2011 percentage standards for four fuels categories under the agency's Renewable Fuel Standard program, known as RFS2. The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA) established the annual renewable fuel volume targets, which reach an overall level of 36 billion gallons in 2022. To achieve its targets, the EPA calculates a percentage-based standard for the following year. Based on the standard, each refiner, importer, and non-oxygenate blender of gasoline determines the minimum volume of renewable fuel that they must use.
Under the proposed overall volumes and standards for 2011, biomass-based diesel will make up 0.68% of overall volume, totaling 0.80 billion gallons; advanced biofuels will make up 0.77%, a total of 1.35 billion gallons; cellulosic biofuels will range from 0.004% to 0.015%, totaling 5-17.1 million gallons; and total renewable fuels will equal 7.95%, or 13.95 billion gallons. In this latest update, EPA is proposing a 2011 cellulosic volume that is lower than the EISA target, based on current market information. However, the agency will continue to evaluate the market before finalizing the cellulosic standard in the coming months.
In addition, EPA is also proposing changes to RFS2 regulations that would potentially apply to renewable fuel producers who use canola oil, grain sorghum, pulpwood, or palm oil as a feedstock. This program rule would allow the fuel produced by those feedstocks dating back to July 1, 2010, to be used for compliance should EPA determine in a future rulemaking that such fuels meet certain greenhouse gas reduction thresholds. The second change would set criteria for foreign feedstocks to be treated like domestic feedstocks in terms of the documentation needed to prove that they can be used to make qualifying renewable fuel under the RFS2 program. Public comment on the renewable fuel standards and the proposed changes to the RFS2 regulations will be due 30 days following publication of the proposed rule in the Federal Register. As of July 13, the proposal had not yet been published. See the EPA press release and the Renewable Fuel Standard Web site.
Several key trends in the U.S. electric utility industry are making it essential for U.S. utilities to provide cleaner, low-carbon electricity while enabling customers to better manage and reduce their energy use, according to a new report. The report, The 21st Century Electric Utility: Positioning for a Low-Carbon Future, was prepared by Navigant Consulting, Inc. for Ceres, a coalition of organizations that works with companies to address sustainability challenges. The report identifies four key industry trends toward cleaner energy: growing imperatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increasing policy and regulatory momentum that will make coal-based generation less competitive, increasing use and policy support for energy efficiency and Smart Grid technologies, and declining renewable energy costs.
The report also identifies key roadblocks that are preventing utilities from acting more quickly: uncertainty about the future policies to reduce carbon emissions; rates based on electricity sales, which reduce utility incentives to promote energy efficiency; and the limitations of today's power grid to integrate large amounts of renewable energy and to enable energy management for utility customers. The report concludes that utilities should manage their carbon emissions based on existing and foreseeable carbon-reduction requirements, pursue all cost-effective energy efficiency measures, integrate cost-effective renewable energy resources into the generation mix, incorporate Smart Grid technologies, and conduct robust and transparent resource planning. Utilities that implement these practices with support from legislators and regulators will be more likely to attract low-cost capital, according to the report. See the Ceres press release and the full report.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has released a report detailing regional strategies to increase biofuels production to meet the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS2) mandate for U.S. consumers to use 36 billion gallons of biofuel per year by 2022. Authors of the USDA's Biofuels Strategic Production Report conclude that meeting RFS2 targets will require a rapid build-up in production capabilities and a substantial investment in biorefineries. The RFS2 implementation provisions are detailed in EPA's final rule for the RFS2, which took effect on July 1.
USDA's report identifies numerous biomass feedstocks to be used in the development of biofuels and calls for the funding of further investments in research and development of various feedstocks; sustainable production and management systems; efficient conversion technologies and high-value bioproducts; and decision support and policy analysis tools. The report provides data on the significant impact the ethanol industry will have on job creation, with as many as 40 direct jobs and additional indirect jobs created with each 100-million-gallon ethanol facility built. In addition, the USDA outlines plans to adopt regional strategies that allow the siting of biorefineries in areas of economic distress through the leveraging of regional resources for transportation, labor, and feedstocks.
The roadmap cites sources of existing or planned biofuels capacity. For example, EPA's analysis projects that 15 billion gallons of conventional biofuels could come from current or already planned production capacity of corn starch ethanol. Of the remaining 21 billion gallons of advanced biofuels needed to achieve the RFS2 targets, 16 billion gallons must come from advanced cellulosic biofuels that reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 60% relative to gasoline. Key to meeting the 36-billion-gallon-goal is establishing a sustainable biofuels economy to produce the 20 billion gallons of advanced biofuels needed.
USDA recognized that some regions have a comparative advantage over others. According to the USDA, the Southeast and Central-Eastern portions of the country could together produce more than 93% of the biofuels needed to meet the RFS2 targets. The Southeast, with its extended growing season, could produce nearly half of the biofuels needed. It and the Central-Eastern region, which stretches from North Dakota and Wisconsin south to Delaware and Virginia, both have abundant resources of biofuels crops such as perennial grasses, biomass sorghum, crop residues, soy beans and woody biomass. Infrastructure will also need improvements. Using models designed by DOE's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that $12 billion in infrastructure improvements, particularly rail expansions, would be needed to sustain the growth in biofuels. See the USDA press release , the USDA biofuels report, and EPA’s final rule.
DOE Seeks Input on Wind Energy Workforce Development Roadmap
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has issued a Request For Information (RFI) to gain public input on the development of a Wind Energy Workforce Roadmap, which will provide details on the current workforce landscape in the wind industry as well as future steps necessary to train and develop a green workforce for the sector.
The purpose of the Roadmap is to establish the policy objectives and overall direction that workforce development efforts throughout the wind industry should assume as it moves forward. This RFI provides leaders from academia, industry, and government with the opportunity to provide insight and guidance to DOE as the nation ramps up its wind energy production. A draft Roadmap document has been developed, and the public may provide comments on the initial draft or may provide alternative or additional viewpoints.
View the full text of the RFI at the FedConnect website. Comments must be provided by no later than July 30, 2010.
Funding Opportunity: USDA SBIR Grants
The U.S. Department of Agriculture requests proposals the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program Phase I. The USDA SBIR program supports U.S. small business R&D projects that address important problems facing American agriculture and that have the potential to lead to significant public benefit if the research is successful. Areas of interest include, but are not limited to: Biofuels and Biobased Products; Forests and Related Resources; Air, Water, and Soils; Rural Development; Small and Mid-Size Farms; and Plant Production and Protection. Proposals are strongly encouraged to address areas including but not limited to Climate Change and Sustainable Bioenergy. Some $21.88 million is expected to be available. Responses are due September 2, 2010. For more information, contact Scott Dockum at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to: http://www.nifa.usda.gov/funding/rfas/sbir_rfa.html . Refer to Sol# USDA-NIFA-SBIR-003240.
Funding Opportunity: Rural Cooperative Development Grant Program
The U.S. Department of Agriculture requests proposals for the Rural Cooperative Development Grant Program. This program supports the establishment and operation of cooperative development centers for the primary purpose of improving the economic condition of rural areas. Areas of interest include but are not limited to: Renewable energy generation, energy conservation, and/or climate change adaptation or mitigation as strategies for quality job creation; Innovative utilization of natural resources as a strategy to expand business opportunities; and local and regional food systems as a strategy for encouraging production agriculture and related industries in new wealth creation. Nearly $8 million is expected to be available, with up to 30 awards anticipated. Responses are due August 9, 2010. For more information, contact email@example.com or go to: http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/rbs/coops/rcdg/rcdg.htm .
New Montana Biomass Feasibility Report Released
The Montana Community Development Corporation has released a new report, titled Developing a Business Case for Sustainable Biomass Generation: A Regional Model for Western Montana. Prepared for NorthWestern Energy, the report explores the feasibility of developing sustainable, woody biomass-fueled Combined Heat and Power plants at sawmills in western Montana to supply a portion of NorthWestern Energy’s required renewable energy portfolio. The report found that a 18-megawatt biomass power plant running on logging by-products already being generated at Tricon Timber in St. Regis would create about 216 construction-related jobs and $11.4 million in annual wages, while ongoing operations would create 43 jobs and $4.25 million in annual wages. The report is available for download at http://deq.mt.gov/Energy/bioenergy/pdf/BiomassProjectFinal6-2-10.pdf
The National Community Action Foundation and Exxon Mobil Corporation awarded the Montana Weatherization Training Center at Montana State University a $354,000 grant to establish the Weatherization Television Network (WXTV), a weekly, 45-minute, multimedia webcast open to weatherization workers nationwide. The grant will be used to help meet the need for easy-access materials to refresh or expand the skills of weatherization workers. This is one of nine grants across eight states to increase the capacity of community action agencies and weatherization assistance program agencies.
"This project shows us how efficiency and cutting waste can start at home," said Senator Tester. "It's no surprise that a common-sense innovation like this came about right here in Big Sky Country."
The grant has enabled the Montana Weatherization Training Center to develop a simple, easy-to-use distance learning platform which supports green collar workers seeking updated technical training in residential efficiency retrofits. The program offers an enhanced training product to the national weatherization workforce. It also meets the state's need for easy-access materials to refresh or expand worker skills.
"The weatherization training partnership is based on our shared belief that energy efficiency and economic development are inextricably linked," said Kenneth Cohen, vice president of public and government affairs for ExxonMobil. "Programs like those operated by MSU will expand career opportunities for American workers and help American families save money by making the buildings in which they live more energy efficient."
"Weatherization is a critical tool in the quest for greater energy and economic efficiency," said David Bradley, executive director of the National Community Action Foundation. "The foundation and ExxonMobil are proud to award this weatherization training partnership grant to help MSU to adapt and share its expertise in weatherization training."
"With the need to ramp up a new generation of workers and to keep them on the job, rather than spend hours in the classroom getting trained, WXTV is an effective solution to provide timely and real-life training content at the convenience of the worker," said Michael P. Vogel, professor, Montana State University Extension.
The National Community Action Foundation-ExxonMobil Weatherization Training Partnership was funded by a $5 million contribution from ExxonMobil to create a competitive grant program that supports advanced weatherization training models. The training models use creative curricula, innovative partnerships and cutting-edge technologies to train more skilled workers to meet the U.S. Administration's goal of weatherizing more homes. The partnership seeks to increase America's energy efficiency and stimulate job creation and economic growth by creating a sustainable career path for weatherization workers. Read the full press release.
The U.S. market for small wind turbines expanded by 15% in 2009 and accounted for about half of the units sold globally, according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). The trade group released its annual Small Wind Turbine Global Market Study on June 8, focusing on wind turbines with rated capacities of 100 kilowatts or less, which are primarily used to power individual homes, farms, and small businesses. The study found that 9,800 small wind turbines were sold in the United States in 2009, representing a total generating capacity of 20.3 megawatts. The economic downturn caused growth to slow in 2009, following a 78% surge in the U.S. market in 2008. According to AWEA, expanded federal tax credits provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act helped keep the small wind turbine market afloat in the United States, despite the economic recession. AWEA estimates that 100,000 small wind turbines are now operating throughout the country, providing about 100 megawatts of generating capacity.
The United States is also the world's leading manufacturer of small wind turbines, according to AWEA. In 2009, about two-thirds of all small wind systems sold throughout the world were made by U.S. manufacturers. About 250 companies throughout the world manufacture or plan to manufacture small wind turbines, and 95 of them are located in the United States, though most of those are in the start-up phase. The world's 15 leading manufacturers continue to predict exponential sales growth in the U.S. market over the next five years, with projections for achieving more than 1,000 megawatts of installed small wind capacity by 2015. The manufacturers report that the fastest growth was in the Midwest last year, but the largest markets overall are in the Northeast, the upper Midwest, and California. States with strong consumer incentives, robust utility policies, and streamlined permitting processes had the strongest markets. U.S. manufacturers also exported about 36% of their turbines in 2009, up from 28% in 2008. See the AWEA press release and the full report (PDF 4.9 M).
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today announced $5 million in funding for research focused on sustainable production of large quantities of non-food biomass for bioenergy. The intent of this Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) is to quantify and understand the environmental impacts of different strategies for producing large quantities of energy crops and other crop residues at the watershed scale. This is part of DOE’s commitment to expanding domestic bioenergy without negatively impacting environmental quality, biodiversity, and the availability of food, feed, fiber, and water.
Biomass will play a significant role in a renewable energy future, especially for the production of liquid transportation fuels, as well as biopower and bioproducts. America’s vast agricultural and forest lands have the potential to produce a wide variety of biomass feedstocks, all of which must be grown and harvested sustainably without adverse impacts or long-term cumulative effects. The lack of reliable environmental data at the watershed scale for high-yielding energy crops and other feedstocks removed from the landscape to ascertain the sustainability of these production systems is a critical barrier to achieving a robust biofuel and biopower industry. Furthermore, there is not adequate information and tools for implementing and managing sustainable high-yield energy crops across the landscape.
Through this FOA, DOE seeks projects that will result in a better understanding of how to design and implement sustainable energy crop production systems at the watershed scale. Selected projects are also required to provide a model or set of tools to assist in the sustainable implementation of production systems at the watershed scale within a broadly defined region of the country.
The complete FOA can be viewed at the Grants.gov website. The expected close date of this announcement is July 16, 2010.
A new study shows that it would be possible for the Western power grid to draw 35% of its electricity from wind and solar energy sources by 2017. The Western Wind and Solar Integration Study (WWSIS), released by DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) on May 20, examines the benefits and challenges of integrating wind power, solar photovoltaic systems, and concentrating solar power onto the grid. The study concludes that while additional infrastructure isn't needed, key operational changes are required to meet this target. The report focused on the power system operated by the WestConnect group of utilities in Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Wyoming. The study also finds that if utilities were to generate as much as 27% of their electricity from wind and solar energy across the Western Interconnection grid, it would lower carbon emissions by 25 to 45%, while decreasing fuel and emissions costs by some 40%, depending on the future price of natural gas. Read the press release.
Renewable energy will be the fastest-growing source of energy throughout the world over the next 28 years, helping to meet a projected 49% increase in world energy use, according to DOE's Energy Information Administration (EIA). The EIA released the highlights of its International Energy Outlook 2010 on May 25, and the reference case, sometimes referred to as the "business-as-usual" case, forecasts continued rapid growth in energy use in developing countries through 2035. China and India accounted for 20% of global energy use in 2007, but the EIA expects their consumption to more than double by 2035, at which time they will account for 30% of world energy use.
In general, the EIA reference case does not forecast a strong shift to clean energy throughout the world. While renewable power generation increases the fastest, at 3% per year, coal-fired power will also continue to increase, at a rate of 2.3% per year. The EIA report sees petroleum and liquid fuels remaining as the world's largest energy source through 2035, while natural gas consumption increases by 1.3% per year. As a result, energy-related carbon dioxide emissions rise from 29.7 billion metric tons in 2007 to 42.4 billion metric tons in 2035, an increase of 43%. And while the reference case expects oil prices to reach $133 per barrel in 2035, even the EIA's "high oil price" case dampens the energy growth only slightly, yielding a 46% increase by 2035. Energy-related carbon dioxide emissions still end up at 41.1 billion metric tons in 2035, an increase of 38%. See the EIA press release and the report highlights.
Builders, real estate agents, appraisers, insulators, HVAC workers, home buyers — anyone interested in building, marketing or buying an energy efficient home – is invited to attend several workshops that NorthWestern Energy is sponsoring throughout the state.
The Northwest ENERGY STAR® Qualified Homes (NWESH) program is the most widely used and respected above energy code program in the country. At the workshops, information will be presented on a version of the ENERGY STAR Qualified Homes program specifically designed for the four Northwest states – including Montana. A NWESH home is typically 15-30% more efficient than a regular code home.
The workshops are free to anyone that attends. Part One of the workshop (held 1:00 – 2:50 p.m. at each location) will explain how ENERGY STAR is related to the recently revised Montana Energy Code. Part Two (held 3:10 – 5:00 p.m. at each location) will address ENERGY STAR and green building standards; such as the National Green Building Standard, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Model Green Home Building Guidelines, and LEED for Homes. Read the full story.
The city of Helena and NorthWestern Energy are teaming up for the second Green Block Pilot Project in Montana. According to a report in the Helena Independent Record, the project will provide energy audits for 100 homes in Helena. Necessary energy conservation measures identified by the audits will then be installed in the homes. The energy measures, which will cost an estimated $1,000 to $2,000 per home, will be installed by NorthWestern Energy at no cost to the participating homeowners. The Helena project is the second such Green Block project in the state—the first was carried out in Missoula in 2008. For more information on the project, including applications, visit http://ci.helena.mt.us or call 406-447-8445. Read the full story.
On Thursday, May 27, 2010, the first of the two required training sessions for yet-to-be qualified Renewable Energy (RE) installers seeking NorthWestern Energy (NWE) USB Funding will be held. The meeting location is at the NorthWestern Energy Division Office in Butte. The meeting room is one block off (north) of Interstate 90, on Montana Street. Montana Street is a primary exit when driving through Butte.
The training will start at 9:00 a.m. and last until approximately 4:00 p.m. Refreshments will be available and a one-half hour lunch break will be provided.
The topics in this specific session cannot be made up through a third-party trainer. Much of the information in the session is specific to the NWE USB program, utility safety, and interconnection requirements. If you are seeking to be qualified, don't miss this training!
NWE also will be introducing a new, user friendly, compliance system for the OSHA 1926 (Construction) Standard. The company believes this will make small business safety much more practical and efficient.
Please RSVP by contacting John Jones at 406-465-5206.
Note: if you are already a qualified NWE installer, this training is not required.
After almost a decade of federal study and analysis, the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) approved the Cape Wind project on April 21, allowing the first U.S. offshore wind farm to move ahead. Cape Wind is a 130-turbine wind power project on submerged federal lands in Nantucket Sound off the Massachusetts coast. DOI required the developer of the $1 billion wind farm to agree to additional binding measures to minimize the potential adverse impacts of construction and operation of the facility. Located in a 25-square-mile section of Horseshoe Shoal in Nantucket Sound, the Cape Wind project will have a maximum electric output of 468 megawatts (MW), with an average anticipated output of 182 MW. That's enough to meet 75% of the electricity demand for Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard, and Nantucket Island combined. The Cape Wind developer hopes to begin construction by the end of this year. See the Cape Wind press release.
On the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day, U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced that the department will invest more than $200 million over five years to expand and accelerate the development, commercialization, and use of solar and water power technologies throughout the United States. This funding underscores the administration's commitment to foster a robust clean-energy sector in the United States—that will create American manufacturing jobs and a workforce with the required technical training to speed the implementation of cutting-edge technologies. Today's announcement represents a down payment that will help the solar and water power industries overcome technical barriers, demonstrate new technologies, and provide support for clean energy jobs for years to come. Read more.
Grasslands Renewable Energy LLC (Grasslands) today announced that it has applied to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) requesting regulatory approvals needed to advance its innovative Wind Spirit Project.
Based in the wind-rich state of Montana, Grasslands has introduced the Wind Spirit Project, an integrated and green approach to harnessing, storing, and transporting clean renewable energy to consumers. "Our goal is to create a package of renewable energy that can compete on reliability and price, not just with renewables like solar, but with non-renewables such as coal," said Carl Borgquist, President of Grasslands. "By combining the wind resources of the Northern Plains in an integrated solution, we can help fight climate change and be a leader in America's energy future."
Grasslands is developing a transmission system to access geographically diverse renewable energy from across Montana and the Northern Great Plains. Through the Wind Spirit Project, renewable energy from multiple geographic areas will combine with energy storage technologies and smart grid components to create a more consistent renewable energy supply. The energy for the Wind Spirit Project would be collected via series of 230KV AC transmission lines and transported to large markets using high voltage AC and DC transmission lines. By combining renewable energy from different geographic areas, the Wind Spirit Project will make renewable energy more efficient and cost effective.
"Montana can and will lead our nation in wind energy development. But until we solve our transmission constraint problems, little of this great resource will be developed. The project proposed by Grasslands Renewable Energy is an important first step in ensuring quality energy jobs for Montanans and clean energy for America," said Governor Brian Schweitzer.
Grasslands' project already has broad support from local, state and federal officials, and, if built, will create hundreds of jobs and pay millions in local and state property taxes. More information on the project is available at www.gre-llc.com/.
If you’re looking to buy a
new appliance for your
home, it might be worth your
while to wait a short time,
until Montana kicks off its
appliance rebate program.
The program was created
through the Recovery Act,
which is providing Montana
with $928,000 for rebates for residents who buy certain ENERGY STAR qualified residential appliances. The Montana program is expected to start in late May 2010. The state is currently in the process of selecting a vendor to administer the
program. Learn more.
The Department of
and Food Research
Initiative (AFRI) provides
competitive grant funds for
fundamental and applied research, extension, and education to address food and agricultural sciences. The AFRI Sustainable Bioenergy Program is accepting proposals for projects that target the development of regional systems for the sustainable production of bioenergy and biobased products that: contribute significantly to reducing dependence on foreign oil; have net positive social, environmental, and rural economic impacts; and are compatible with existing agricultural systems. Key components of the implementation of these grants are integrated research, education, and extension/ technology transfer activities. Sustainable Bioenergy grants will support the start up and growth of a network of Regional Bioenergy CAPs focusing on five dedicated energy crops that include perennial grasses, energy cane, sorghum, woody biomass, and oil crops (oilseeds and algae). Letters of intent are due July 9, 2010. Details are available at http://nifa.usda.gov/funding/rfas/afri_rfa.html.
The Montana Renewable Energy Association (MREA), a 501 (c) 3, seeks a part-time Executive Director to represent the renewable energy system installers and advocates of Montana, grow membership, and do fundraising. This position is part-time to start, with the potential to expand to a full time position. The Director will be expected to develop programs and funding sources in order to increase MREA activity. Director will have a unique opportunity to play a lead role in the industry as this premier trade and advocacy organization continued to grow to meet ever growing demand for clean power and energy independence. Read the full posting.
It looks like our energy future is at least partly in the hands of cows, now that agribusiness giant Cargill has joined the manure-to-biogas gold rush. The company has just announced that its second biogas project is up and running at the Bettencourt Dairy B6 Farm in Jerome, Idaho. Using manure produced by the farm’s 6,000 cows, the biogas project is generating enough renewable methane to make electricity for about 1,100 typical homes. That’s just the latest installation in a trend that is seeing manure-to-biogas facilities popping up on farms across the United States like mushrooms after a rain.
This is Cargill’s third foray into dairy cow biogas in Idaho. The venture also boosts the company’s involvement in the global renewable energy market, because it will generate about 28,000 tons of carbon emissions offsets. It underscores how rapidly the renewable energy sector is growing from small scale experimental roots into a fully commercialized global market force that is chewing away at the dominance of fossil fuels. Read the full story ( Tina Casey, cleantechnica.com).
The Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC), a non-profit program and policy development organization, has released a Community Renewable Power Proposal, which incorporates "best practices" in facilitating co-investment in local renewable power facilities. IREC officials say the proposal builds upon the best elements of community solar and renewables programs that have been adopted by a number of municipal utilities and by policy makers from diverse states. IREC says some interest in community solar comes from recognition that many utility customers are not able to host an on-site system but would still like to invest in local renewable generation. They cite as an example those renters and occupants of multi-tenant residential and commercial buildings that may lack necessary control of their premises to host an on-site solar PV system. Add to that the potential for on-site shading and structural concerns and it becomes clear that even an eager property owner may not be able to host on-site PV generation. In fact, a 2008 study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory found that only 22 to 27 percent of residential buildings would be suitable for hosting an on-site PV system. IREC officials say that community policies, if well designed, can provide the best approach for creating additional opportunities for customers to support local renewable power development. They also note that community systems can harness economies of scale that can lower the overall cost of participation in a community system. Read the proposal.