Wind Energy Takes Flight In The Heart Of Texas Oil Country

Posted on March 17th, 2017 in wind by Spencer R.



Georgetown, Texas, is a conservative town in a conservative state. So it may come as something of a surprise that it's one of the first cities in America to be entirely powered by renewable energy.

Mayor Dale Ross, a staunch Republican who attended President Trump's inauguration, says that decision came down to a love of green energy and "green rectangles" — cash.

When Georgetown's old power contract was up in 2012, city managers looked at all their options. They realized wind and solar power are more predictable; the prices don't fluctuate like oil and gas. So, a municipality can sign a contract today and know what the bill is going to be for the next 25 years.

That's especially appealing in a place like Georgetown, where a lot of retirees live on fixed incomes.

"First and foremost it was a business decision," Ross says.

City leaders say the debate over renewables never even mentioned climate change, a wedge issue in Texas politics.

It's not just Georgetown that is defying expectations of conservatism and renewable energy. As a state, Texas is by far the No. 1 producer of wind energy in the United States; it produces more wind energy than the next three states combined. In fact, if it were its own country, Texas would be the fourth-largest largest wind-producing country in the world by the end of 2017. Ross says former Texas Gov. Rick Perry deserves the credit: "I truly believe he was a visionary."

Today, Rick Perry is the head of the U.S. Department of Energy. At his swearing-in last week, Perry described what President Trump told him when he offered him the job: "I want you to do for American energy what you did for Texas."

If that request extends to wind power — after all, Trump is seen as emphasizing fossil fuels, with his support for coal and through his Cabinet picks — the U.S. can expect a further explosion in wind energy production and in the jobs needed to support the industry.

Already, the fastest-growing job in the U.S. is wind turbine technician. Though the absolute numbers are small — 4,400 in 2014 — it's growing at more than double the pace of the next closest profession.

That explosion is apparent in Sweetwater, Texas, which sits on a vast open plain — an area that the town's former mayor, Greg Wortham, describes as the wind capitol of the world. In every direction, row after row of 300-foot-tall wind turbines dot the horizon.

The construction and maintenance of these three-armed behemoths has created a new industry in town. Heath Ince teaches in the wind program at Texas State Technical College, Sweetwater.

"A lot of people don't realize how physically demanding and even mentally challenging it can be at times," Ince says of the job maintaining machinery in an environment that is scalding hot in the summer and frigid in the winter.

And yet, the program has doubled in size since its launch, to 52 students from 25 in 2008. Demand is high — renewable energy companies are hiring Ince's students, sometimes before they even finish the program — and the salaries are good, too: Median pay in 2015 was about $50,000.

In policy circles, the debate surrounding renewable energy and fossil fuels often pits them against one another. Liberals are supposed to support solar and wind; conservatives are supposed to support oil and gas.

In Texas, the attitude is "all of the above."

"Any time there's an opportunity to put a little extra income in people's pockets, we're all for it," says Russ Petty, who owns a print shop in Sweetwater and whose relatives have been ranchers in the area for generations.

The income derived from leasing a single turbine varies. But Wortham, the former mayor, says $10,000 per turbine per year is a good estimate.

That's significant, says developer Monty Humble.

"For a land owner, a ranching family to have the opportunity to produce oil and gas or the opportunity to have a wind turbine or a solar farm, it may well mean that another generation can remain on the land," Humble says.

But just because West Texas towns like Sweetwater had the potential to produce a lot of wind energy didn't mean that energy had anywhere to go. That changed when Gov. Perry signed into law a 2005 bill to build transmission lines connecting the windy plains to population centers like Houston, Austin, Dallas and San Antonio. And Perry made every Texas citizen pay for it in their energy bills.

That's not the most conservative position in the world, says David Spence, a law professor at the University of Texas at Austin, who specializes in energy and the environment.

"It's a full socialization of the costs," Spence says. "We don't use that word in the public discussion. But, yeah, we socialize the costs across all Texas ratepayers."

Texas has a unique advantage that enabled some of these changes. Continental America is divided into three electrical grids: East, West and Texas. Since the Texas grid is self-contained, wind energy doesn't cross state lines and isn't subject to as many federal regulations.

Even so, the simple abundance of wind and an independent grid by no means guaranteed the explosion in wind energy production in Texas. Jay Root, who covered Perry's governorship as a reporter for The Texas Tribune, says Perry pushed for wind energy and "if he hadn't, we would not be where we are today."

But, Root adds, "I don't think anyone would call Rick Perry an environmentalist, including Rick Perry. ... But the guy knows how to sniff out a dollar. Here's a guy from West Texas who saw that you can make money off of the wind blowing. Like, that's a no brainer."

Of course, this Texas wind revolution was begun before the Tea Party revolution, when it was easier for Republicans to buck strict conservative principles on a case-by-case basis. So Perry, as U.S. energy secretary, faces challenges at the national level that will make it much harder for him to expand what he did in Texas.

But if he does, it would be almost as surprising as what happened in his home state when a red-state, conservative guy from oil country managed to help build one of the biggest renewable energy systems in the world.


The South Has Been Slow To Harness Its Wind, But That's Changing

Posted on March 2nd, 2017 in wind by Spencer R.



 Wind power is the largest source of renewable energy in the United States. But a broad swath of the country has had no large, commercial wind farms — until now. A new one with 104 towers is up and running near Elizabeth City, N.C., where it spans 22,000 acres.

Horace Pritchard is one of about 60 landowners who are leasing property to the project known as the Amazon Wind Farm U.S. East. Developers say it will generate enough power for 61,000 homes per year — power that the Internet retailer Amazon has agreed to buy from the electric grid.

Pritchard's farm is about 30 miles from the Atlantic coast — close enough to be windier than areas farther inland. The project is a good deal for Pritchard, who gets an annual payment for each turbine on his land.

"When corn's down, that you're not making any ends meet, this will help us pull through a bad year or a hurricane or a drought," he says.

The wind farm is considered the first of its kind in the Southeastern United States. But why has the region been so slow to harness its wind?

Slow Southern breezes

In the Southeast, the strongest winds tend to be higher up than in places like the Great Plains, with their wide open spaces.

"There are decent and actually quite good wind speeds at very high elevations above the earth's surface in the Southeast," says Michael Goggin, senior director of research at the American Wind Energy Association. "Thus far, we just haven't had turbines that were large enough to get up there to capture those winds."

That's partly a quirk of geography, he says, and partly because the Southeast has a lot of trees and forests.

"That interferes with the flow of wind, you know, just basically friction — the wind is slowing down as it hits those trees," Goggin says.

All of that explains why, aside from a small amount of wind power in Tennessee, the region has lagged far behind the rest of the country in wind energy.

That might sound counterintuitive if you're thinking of the robust winds that blow along the ocean. And you'd be right, but coastal wind development can be logistically complicated because of homes, businesses and other structures, and often faces public resistance.

"On the beach, there is a lot of wind — that's why people go to the beach in the summer to get cool and be near the water," says Craig Poff, director of business development at Avangrid Renewables, which runs the project. "But you have to balance the placement of wind turbines with the geography."

Wind towers weren't tall enough — until now

The wind turbines on Pritchard's farm dot the landscape, along with his tractors and other farm equipment. They're tall: The tip of the highest blade stretches close to 500 feet in the air above the base, longer than a football field. The blades make a faint whooshing sound as they slice through the air.

Poff says it's hard to tell with the naked eye, but these towers are a little different from the ones you might see in other parts of the country.

"They've gotten a little bit taller and the blades have gotten a little bit longer," he says.

About 10 years ago, he says, the tower itself would have been about 250 feet tall. Now the tower alone is about 330 feet. That extra length is possible because of technological advances that make taller towers feasible and more affordable than they would have been a decade ago.

"I think it has changed the energy map of the country," says Goggin, of the American Wind Energy Association. "Traditionally, people didn't think there was wind in the Southeast, and now there are projects being built there."

Competition from traditional fuels

Historically, the Southeast has relied on easy access to coal, and in some areas, nuclear power. As the industry has matured and technology has advanced, Poff says the cost of generating wind power has dropped about 65 percent over about the past five years.

"Wind energy has to compete with what the cost of energy is in the area," he says. "So here, it took a while for turbine technology to catch up to make this project competitive with what energy would otherwise cost. And here we're competing against old infrastructure."

Between cheaper wind, and a recent volatility in coal prices and competition from natural gas, Goggin says renewable fuel is becoming more attractive in the region. Several utilities, from Georgia to Tennessee, have a history of buying renewable energy — from outside the region.

"It makes sense that utilities are looking to diversify their fuel mix and lock in a low price with wind energy," Goggin says.

Transmission and the grid

Another challenge for wind development in the Southeast and elsewhere is the fact that the nation's electrical grid wasn't designed with renewable energy in mind. Goggin describes the grid as a system of regional fiefdoms with a "little dirt road between them" that aren't set up to efficiently exchange energy.

"This is just kind of a historical artifact of how we built the power grid in this country," Goggin says. "We didn't really have a national power system or a national electricity market, until the last decade or so."

In some areas, utilities wanting to buy and sell wind energy are running against limitations of the existing transmission lines.

"So I think that's part of also what's driving interest in wind projects in the Southeast, is that we've hit limits on how much you can bring in from other regions," Goggin says.

Politics and public opposition

Wind farms in new areas often run up against pushback from the public. For the project in North Carolina, there were several obstacles. Republican state lawmakers raised concerns that it might interfere with military radar. The Navy reviewed the project and said interference is unlikely.

Lawmakers then made a last-ditch request to President Trump to block the project. That has apparently failed, but Trump has expressed skepticism about wind power; he famously objected to a wind farm he said would disrupt the view near one of his golf courses in Scotland.

Those concerns, along with worries about noise, land use, and the impact on birds and other wildlife, often pop up around new wind developments.

Officials with Avangrid say they hope the North Carolina project will pave the way for more wind power in the region. Spokesman Art Sasse says he believes growing demand from technology companies like Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook will drive growth in the renewable sector, regardless of politics.

"All of those companies now that are going out and purchasing large-scale, commercial, renewable projects — that's not going to stop," Sasse says. "That is where our industry is headed, so it really is about the marketplace."

For Horace Pritchard, the economics are working out well; he says the $54,000 he's getting each year for the nine towers on his farm more than offsets the land taken out of production beneath them. Some of the neighbors who initially scoffed at the wind farm are now asking if they can get in on the deal, he says.

With a laugh, Pritchard adds, "Over the long-term, nothing I could grow legal[ly] would produce what these are doin'."


Wind Energy Is Now The Largest Source Of Clean Energy In The U.S.

Posted on March 1st, 2017 in wind by Spencer R.



Wind power has now overtaken hydroelectric as the largest single source of clean energy in the United States. With 82 thousand MWs of total installed capacity at the end of 2016, wind turbines exceeded the 80 thousand MWs generated by the nation’s hydroelectric dams. This comes on the heels of the EIA’s short-term energy outlook which predicts wind and solar power will continue to account for the fastest growth in the U.S. energy sector, repeating a trend from last year. The EIA predicts wind power will reach 94 thousand MWs by 2018.

Wind hasn’t surpassed hydroelectric power in all categories, however; in terms of actual power generated, dams still out-perform wind turbines, as they tend to stay on for more of the year. But with few dams planned for construction, it’s likely wind power will exceed hydroelectric in actual power produced in the next few years.

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) has reported that 10 thousand MWs in new power is currently under construction, including the Amazon Wind Farm off the coast of Elizabeth City, NC, the nation’s first large off-shore wind farm. Last year, 8200 MWs was added, most of it in the year’s final quarter.


Much of the growth is being driven by Texas, by far the country’s largest producer of wind power and the industry’s leader in adding new capacity. Texas produces 20 thousand MWs, around a quarter of the national total, and maintains more than 11 thousand turbines, which produce 13 percent of the state’s total power. Texan interest in wind power, which grew under Governor Rick Perry, has wind energy advocates hopeful that Perry’s current role as Secretary of Energy won’t prove an impediment to additional growthFurther interest in wind power may be generated by the sector’s growing role as a job creator. Wind power provides employment for about 100,000 people nationwide, far more than the coal industry. Bloomberg has reported that wind power advocates and developers have been urging the federal government, which has shown considerable interest in rejuvenating the U.S. coal industry, to instead shift their attention to wind power.

Much of the sector’s growing capacity is coming in rural areas, chiefly in the Midwest. North Dakota, to name one example, has seen 3 thousand MWs installed in the past decade, and one-third of that total in just the last 10 months.

Internationally, the U.S. remains way behind China in terms of wind power capacity. Of the 54 GW installed worldwide in 2016, China accounted for 42 percent, or 23.3 GW. According to Chinese projections, by 2030 wind turbines will supply 26 percent of total electricity demand. China cannot produce electricity with the same efficiency as American turbines, according to Bloomberg, chiefly due to inadequate transmission lines.In Europe, another leader in wind power, 12.5 GW was added, a slight decrease from 2015.

Since the U.S. election last year, the big question facing renewable energy is whether the new Trump Administration, outwardly hostile to non-fossil fuels and critical of climate change advocacy, will prove a hindrance to growth in their sector. Some investors are optimistic, confident that the plummeting cost of wind turbines, the attraction of constructing new wind farms in rural or low-income areas, and the strong demand will continue to propel growth. As one advocate for wind power noted in the Dallas Morning News“88 percent of wind capacity installed…was in states that voted for Trump.”

Wind power has attracted strong interest from major U.S. corporations. Google is backing a plan to build a 225 MW wind farm in Oklahoma, bringing the company’s renewable energy portfolio to 2.6 GW. Amazon is constructing turbines in North Carolina to power a server facility. The GM factory in Arlington, TX receives half its power from wind turbines, and plans are set for that figure to reach 100 percent by 2018. The car manufacturer announced plans last November to power fifteen of its factories with wind power and plans on meeting all of its energy needs with renewables by 2050.

 The announcement of New York’s planned 90 MW off-shore wind farm offers further indications of potential growth in the wind power sector. Despite the potential obstacles, economic and political, wind power will continue to be an attractive option for adding new electricity capacity.


Wind energy supplied all of Denmark’s power needs one day last week

Posted on March 1st, 2017 in wind by Spencer R.



Renewable energy can generate enough power for entire countries–a fact Denmark can confirm. Last week on Wednesday, the nation met all of its power needs via wind energy, according to information from wind power trade organization WindEurope. The group said the energy Denmark produced from onshore and offshore wind was sufficient to power 10 million European Union (EU) households.

Denmark produced 27 GWh via offshore wind and 70 gigawatt-hours (GWh) via onshore wind on February 23, according to WindEurope. This isn’t the first time wind power has achieved renewable energy feats in the country; 2015 saw several big days for wind energy. By the end of that year, 1,271 megawatts (MW) of offshore wind and 3,799 MW of onshore wind was installed in Denmark, amounting to a little over five gigawatts (GW) of wind energy.


Related: Germany generated so much renewable energy last weekend electric prices went negative

The industry did experience a slight slump in 2016, owing mainly to low winds. Before that year, Danish Wind Industry Association CEO Jan Hylleberg said since 2008 they’d “experienced continuous growth in the wind energy production and each year set a new world record.” Although the industry expected the trend wouldn’t continue in 2016, Hylleberg said the fact they didn’t maintain that upward movement was frustrating, but it appears 2017 is off to a soaring start. MHI Vestas Offshore Wind‘s new nine MW wind turbine already smashed the record for energy generation in a 24 hour period during testing at a test field off Denmark’s coast.

Hylleberg described Denmark as world champions at harnessing wind. But the Nordic country wasn’t the only nation to obtain a large amount of power via wind energy last week. WindEurope also reported Germany and Ireland respectively met 52 and 42 percent of their electricity needs with wind. According to the organization, “Wind power in the EU as a whole covered almost 19 percent of the bloc’s electricity needs.”


Why Wind Turbines Should Talk to Each Other

Posted on February 21st, 2017 in wind by Spencer R.



A wind turbine spinning its blades in a valley in southeast India asks a turbine on a plain in Iowa if it should slow down or speed up its rotation. Sound like the stuff of science fiction?

It’s not, according to GE’s VP of Software Research Colin Parris. GE has been developing software, sensors and networking technology that enable wind turbines to talk to each other, not only within the confines of a particular wind farm, but even across the planet.

Such technology, and others like it, could help boost wind farm capacity, lower costs of operating wind farms, and potentially help wind energy compete more effectively with fossil fuel power. “A machine consulting with another that could be transformational,” said Parris, in a recent interview.

Much of the success of wind energy around the globe has resulted from larger and lower-cost turbines that can produce more power, combined with increasingly savvy and maturing wind developers and financiers, as well helpful subsidies from governments. However, computing tech can also contribute, adding smart intelligence to machines, helping them operate more efficiently, and alerting developers about needed maintenance.

According to some research, these types of technologies could add a 4 percent to 8 percent increase in annual energy production of a wind farm. That could be a lot on a large wind farm with hundreds of megawatts of capacity.

GE, one of the world’s largest wind turbine makers, has built a number of computing and data-dependent technologies that are working on what some call “wind orthodontics.”

Here are five ways computing technology is boosting wind energy.

Wind energy forecasting: Predicting when and how much the wind will blow is a major issue for power companies and grid operators. Because solar and wind energy are variable, that makes it harder to predict just when these resources will generate energy, compared to natural gas, coal and nuclear plants. If a cloud drifts over a solar field, or the wind suddenly picks up, the energy produced can drop or soar significantly.

In India, the government relies on accurate GE wind forecasts to help determine how much extra power needs to be spun up from coal and natural gas plants to make up for any wind shortfalls, said Parris. If GE forecasts more wind power than actually is generated, the Indian grid might face a blackout. If GE forecasts less wind power than actually occurs, grid operators could be wasting energy and money.

GE isn’t the only company that has invested in energy prediction engines. IBM has its own wind and solar forecasting systems. GE is also looking at doing solar forecasting as well, but currently isn’t offering the tech commercially.

Wind farm optimization: If you have a wind farm of, say, 50 or 100 turbines, the turbines in the front of the pack might access more wind flows, while blocking some of the wind turbines in the back. To overcome this issue, GE connects wind turbines with wireless networks and control devices and uses data and software to adjust the angle and speed of blades and rotors so that the most wind energy can be produced by the turbines collectively.

Called “wake management,” the computing tech can deliver 0.5 percent to 2 percent more annual energy production from wind turbines. While that might sound like a drop in the bucket, at a big farm, it adds up.

According to consultants SgurrEnergy, some wind companies are also using lidar technology to ensure that the plane of a wind turbine’s rotor remains perpendicular to the wind, enabling it to access as much energy as possible.

Wind farm maintenance: When a wind turbine breaks down, it’s a big deal. Turbines are commonly hundreds of feet tall, and when they become inoperable, that sometimes means that a worker has to go to the top and check out what’s wrong. And when the blades of a turbine aren’t turning, electricity isn’t being produced, which means money isn’t being made.

GE has built algorithms based on historical wind turbine activity and real-time wind energy data that can predict when wind turbines need to be maintained and alerts developers to when they could break down. The industry calls it "predictive maintenance."

The American Wind Energy Association says that in 2011, close to $40 billion worth of wind turbines in the U.S. went out of warranty, meaning the owners of the wind turbines will need to invest in their maintenance directly. Algorithms could help reduce upkeep costs.  

Drone inspections: Drones could play a new role in helping wind developers maintain turbines, and GE has already been experimenting with such technology.

Drones, carrying cameras, can fly up to the rotor and blades and inspect turbines to see if anything is out of place. Those cameras could use computing vision software to detect failures, rust, or corrosion.

Talking wind turbines: There are a lot of reasons why wind turbines might want to talk to each other across a farm, across a state or across the planet.

An older wind farm that’s been generating electricity for years could give advice to a newer, younger farm that’s operating under similar conditions. Or a wind turbine at the front of a pack could let its fellow turbines at the back of the pack know it’s adjusting its blade and rotor angle or speed.

“We have wind turbines talking to each other, and they can ask each other questions about failures, wind direction and security, or about collaborating more effectively,” explained GE’s Parris.

Such communication technology would require the turbines to be networked with wireless connections, and use sensors and software to let other turbines know how they’re operating and how they should operate


Wind energy capacity in Europe now exceeds total coal output

Posted on February 17th, 2017 in wind by Spencer R.



While homeowners are more familiar with photovoltaic solar panels, large-scale wind power is an increasingly important part of the growth in renewable energy.

For the first time, the total installed capacity of wind energy in Europe now exceeds the total output of electric powerplants fueled with coal.

And that imbalance is likely to grow as more wind generation comes online over the next decade, both on land and offshore.

The statistics, collated by WindEurope, are laid out in a blog post this week  by Navigant Research.

Total new wind-generating capacity installed in 28 EU member countries last year added up to 12.5 gigawatts, with a bit more than 10 percent of that located offshore.

The 2016 number was down slightly on the previous year's total, but that reflected a fast push to complete wind projects in 2015 before Germany reduced its incentives as of January 1 last year.

Total installed wind capacity in Europe is now up to 154 gigawatts, though of course capacity is generally larger than actual utilitzation for renewable sources.

Still, wind provided more than 10 percent of Europe's electricity last year, and renewables—both wind and solar—grew enough to allow older fossil-fuel plants to be decommissioned altogether.

Europe's total coal generating capability now stands at 152 gigawatts, and will almost surely fall further in coming years as countries work to reduce the greenhouse-gas emissions of the generating sector.

Fully 86 percent of the 24.5 gigawatts of new generating capacity installed in Europe last year was renewable.

Total investment in wind generation last year was $30 billion, and Germany led the field with 44 percent of the total new wind capacity installed.

For the decade and a half since 2000, the 342.3 gigawatts of new capacity in wind (41.7 percent) and solar power (29.5 percent), along with natural gas (28.8 percent) allowed retirement of a like amount of generation from fuel oil, coal, and nuclear.

Analysts, including those at Navigant, expect offshore wind to represent the bulk of new capacity going forward.

The U.K., for one, has eliminated financial incentives for wind installations on land, but retained them for offshore wind farms—whose costs have already fallen below levels not expected until 2020.

While it can be hard to generalize about grid mix in Europe as a whole, Germany, the U.K., and much of Eastern Europe carry a legacy of largely coal-fired generation due to their natural deposits of the fossil fuel.

Germany has led the switch to renewable energy over the last decade, although France points to its nuclear power—which provides more than half the nation's electricity—as another low-carbon technology.


Wind energy to be created using lamp-posts

Posted on February 6th, 2017 in wind by Spencer R.



An IT company has joined forces with a green technology firm to develop wind turbines which attach to lamp-posts.

The NVT Group's partnership with Own Energy Solutions is set to create 25 jobs over the next 12 months which it hopes will rise to about 300 within three years.

The scheme harvests wind using a small wind turbine and inverter system.

As a result, metered, clean energy could be fed directly into the National Grid.

The company said that as a result, each suitable lamp-post conversion would save half a ton of carbon being released into the atmosphere.

As part of the deal, which is worth about £3.5m over the next 15 years, Own Energy is relocating from Glasgow to NVT's headquarters in Bellshill, North Lanarkshire.

Stephen Park Brown, managing director of NVT Group, said: "We have a great record of working with winning teams and this new venture has every prospect of eclipsing our recent commissions. We believe that Own Energy can become a significant player in the renewables market both in the UK and beyond."

'Huge export potential'

David Gordon, chief executive of Own Energy, said: "We chose to partner with NVT Group based on its extraordinary performance in recent years, particularly in the delivery of the technology for world-class sporting events such as the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow - which of course was widely regarded as the most successful in history - and The Ryder Cup.

"Our business is likely to scale up quickly and we know that NVT Group will be able to accommodate such growth based on its past experience. There are around 10 million lamp-posts in the UK and upwards of 20% of these are suitable for conversion which makes this a very scalable business opportunity with huge export potential.

"We have already had positive preliminary discussions with UK public and private bodies and have had indications of interest from the USA, Canada, Mexico, Ireland and South Africa. We believe this business has the potential to achieve an annual UK turnover of over £400m within five years."

Local MSP Richard Lyle said: "This is marvellous news and I know from colleagues across the political divide that this project is really firing the imagination.

"It chimes with the policies of the major political parties in Scotland and can deliver both clean green energy as well as meaningful financial benefits for hosts such as local government and private owners alike. Bringing jobs to Bellshill is also to be welcomed."

North Lanarkshire Council leader Jim Logue said: "I very much welcome this news. New jobs, technology and innovation are a healthy mix of ingredients which will, we hope, pay dividends for North Lanarkshire and beyond."


This is what it's like to climb and service wind turbines for a living

Posted on February 1st, 2017 in wind by Spencer R.



One of America's fastest growing professions, wind turbine technician, attracts people with a unique set of skills, as demonstrated by climber and composer Jessica Kilroy.

According to the US Department of Labor, one of the fastest growing professions in the country is one that didn't even exist not that long ago, but employing people who can service and repair wind turbines is an essential part of our clean energy revolution. The Department's Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) states that "Employment of wind turbine service technicians, also known as windtechs, is projected to grow 108 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations."

Granted, the total number of wind technician jobs isn't very high (4,400 in 2014), so the resulting job figures from that growth isn't nearly as huge as that 108% rate might suggest, but the profession is still one key component of a low-cost and low impact energy source.

What is it like to climb hundreds of feet into the air for your job, and do the work while dangling in a harness from a rope on one of those monster wind turbines? The following video from Great Big Story, as part of its Planet Earth series, shares the story of Jessica Kilroy, a climber, composer, conservationist, and wind technician:

"These days, giant wind turbines are supplying more and more of our clean energy. And when they break down, they need to be fixed fast. It's a job only a few people are equipped to handle. Those who are afraid of heights need not apply. Rock climber Jessica Kilroy, for one, loves the challenge of blade repair. And though she makes dangling at dizzying heights look easy, her path to becoming a wind turbine technician has been anything but that." - Great Big Story

Although wind turbine technicians, with their daily high-flying adventures, might have one of the most exciting jobs in clean energy, the booming wind energy sector has created quite a few employment opportunities, with more than 100,000 wind energy jobs currently in the US. That's more than the number of jobs in nuclear, coal, natural gas or hydroelectric power plants, and the wind industry is expected to employ an estimated 380,000 people in the US by 2030.

According to the American Wind Energy Association, the industry is "bringing billions in private investment, and tens of thousands of well-paying jobs, to rural and Rust Belt communities across the United States," which enhances those communities through boosting their economies and providing funds for schools, roads, and other necessities. And it's not just the treehuggers and renewable energy wonks who support wind energy, as even the US Department of Defense sees wind energy as an important element of increasing our energy security and cutting operational costs at its own installations. Wind and solar are seen by analysts as being currently the cheapest available electricity sources, even without subsidies, and could very well prove to be the backbone of the clean electricity grid of the future.


Wind energy continues strong growth in Canada in 2017

Posted on February 1st, 2017 in wind by Spencer R.



Canada's wind energy industry had another year of strong growth in 2016, adding 702 MW of new capacity through the commissioning of 21 projects in Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia. Sixteen of these projects are owned, at least in part, by aboriginal or local communities, or municipal governments. Canada now has 11,898 MW of installed wind generation capacity, enough to supply six percent of Canada's electricity demand and meet the annual electricity needs of more than three million homes.

Wind energy and natural gas are the two most cost-competitive sources of new electricity generation in Canada today and wind energy has been the largest source of new electricity generation in Canada since 2005. Between 2012 and 2016, Canada's installed wind energy capacity has grown by an average of 18 per cent, or 1,327 MW, annually.

The Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) expects Canada to install approximately 700 MW of new wind energy capacity in 2017. New wind energy procurement in Alberta and Saskatchewan in 2017, coupled with a renewed focus in Canada on actions to transition to a low carbon economy, mean that wind energy's growth prospects will remain strong in Canada for many years to come.


"More wind energy has been built in Canada in the last 11 years than any other form of electricity generation, and for good reason. Costs for wind energy have fallen dramatically over the past seven years, making wind energy one of Canada's two most cost-competitive sources of new electricity supply. And unlike natural gas, wind energy is not impacted by carbon prices or commodity price fluctuations, meaning that wind energy will only become more affordable over time. The fact that the vast majority of new wind energy projects built in Canada in 2016 had some form of local ownership demonstrates the value of wind not only as a driver of economic growth, but also as a source of local jobs and revenue in communities right across the country."

-Robert Hornung, President, CanWEA


  • Ontario continued to lead Canada in market size and growth, adding 413 MW of new wind energy capacity in 2016 to bring its total installed capacity to 4,781 MW.
  • Quebec added three projects totalling 249 MW of capacity in 2016, ending the year with 3,510 MW of wind energy on its grid and maintaining its position as the second largest wind energy market in Canada.
  • Nova Scotia installed more wind energy projects than any other province in 2016, with 10 new facilities totalling 39.5 MW coming on line, most driven by the province's unique community feed-in tariff program. Nova Scotia ended the year with 579 MW of wind energy capacity, placing it fourth among the provinces for total installed capacity.
  • Canada's new wind energy projects in 2016 represented about $1.5 billion in investment.
  • There are now 285 wind farms made up of 6,288 wind turbines operating in Canada, bringing economic development and diversification to well over 100 rural communities through land lease income, property tax payments, ownership revenue and community benefits agreements.
  • Canada's first commercial wind facility, the Cowley Ridge Wind Farm, was decommissioned in 2016, 23 years after it began operations in southern Alberta in 1993. Alberta added no new wind capacity last year, but remains Canada's third largest wind market with 1,479 MW.


  • Levelized Cost of Energy Analysis 10.0, published in November 2016 by the financial advisory firm Lazard, shows how the cost of wind energy has fallen 66 per cent over the past seven years in the United States.
  • National Energy Board statistics (appendices: electricity capacity) show more wind energy was built in Canada than any other source of electricity generation from 2005 to 2015
  • CanWEA's Wind Markets webpages contain detailed information on the role of wind energy in markets across Canada.


Giant wind turbine sets record for wind energy generated in 24 hours

Posted on February 1st, 2017 in wind by Spencer R.



 Wind turbine designers have been working on bringing a 10 MW turbine to market for years. They're close. We've seen prototypes and know that it won't be very long before these next generation turbines are producing clean energy around the world.

Proof of that comes from a new world record for wind power generated by a single wind turbine in a 24-hour period. The new V164 9 MW turbine from Danish company MHI Vestas Offshore Wind produced an amazing 216,000 kWh on December 1, 2016. The turbine was installed at a testing site near Østerild, Denmark.

The 9 MW V164 turbine is a tweaked and upgraded version of the 8 MW V164 that was developed in 2012. The V164 has been the most powerful wind turbine to date, holding the previous wind energy generation record before its upgrade. It stands 722 feet high and has blades that are 263 feet long. This giant has a sweep area larger than the London Eye.

Why this constant push towards larger wind turbines? The larger the turbine, the larger the power output, which makes offshore wind farms exponentially more efficient and brings down the cost of installation, maintenance and electricity, too.

The V164 has a 25-year life span and 80 percent of the turbine can be recycled when its job is done. It can produce electricity at minimum wind speeds of 9 mph with the optimal wind speed being between 27 and 56 mph, conditions that are typical in the rough North Sea where the turbine is destined to reside.

The turbine has been selected for the 370 MW Norther offshore wind park off the coast of Zeebrugge, Belgium. The project will generate enough electricity to cover the energy needs of 400,000 Belgian households when it's completed in 2019.