Across the heartland, rural communities have been struggling for decades and their economies have been hollowed out by the same forces affecting urban areas.
With a widened deployment of renewable energy, wind turbines and solar farms can be revenue engines that fund essential services, while keeping taxes low.

Toledo Blade:

Another wind farm, Michigan-based CMS Energy’s Northwest Ohio Wind project, consists of 42 turbines in southern Paulding County. It helps power all of GM’s Ohio and Indiana manufacturing facilities.

To Susan Munroe, a former Van Wert County Chamber of Commerce director now with the Chambers for Innovation & Clean Energy, there’s “no greater opportunity for economic development” than wind power.

Revenue generated by wind turbines have helped improve park districts, township roads, and senior citizen programs while keeping costs down. But, above all, it has brought stability to local schools in uncertain times:

■ At Paulding County’s Wayne Trace Local School District, a higher percentage of students have been graduating and more have scored in advanced and accelerated categories for achievement since revenue from wind farms began coming in, according to state test scores. Superintendent Ben Winans said there has been $4.5 million in turbine revenue since 2014, which has allowed the district to hire 18 additional staffers — mostly for special needs and intervention. Some $848,235 came in the last fiscal year. “We wouldn’t be able to do this without them,” Mr. Winans said of the giant turbines.

■ At Van Wert County’s Crestview Local Schools, wind turbines have generated an additional $880,000 a year, which has paid for new classrooms and other construction, as well as a school resource officer, and money for future contingencies. “It keeps you off the ballot. You can carry that money forward,” Superintendent Kathy Mollenkopf said. “We don’t have to go to our taxpayers for anything. That’s a good place to be.”

■ At Van Wert County’s Lincolnview Local Schools, turbines have generated $2 million since 2014, and — at a pace of $400,000 a year — are expected to bring $8 million in funding over 20 years. It has helped pay for new technology, a boiler, more parking, and a new roof. “Where we decide to put it is endless,” Mr. Snyder said, also stating that the additional money helped refinance bonds to save interest on the community center, which will also serve as a tornado shelter. The new center “would have been a very tough sell” to voters without revenue from wind turbines, he said.

“Our relationship with the wind energy companies has been sensational,” Rick Turner, superintendent of the Vantage Career Center, which serves 430 high school students from Paulding, Putnam, and Van Wert counties, said.

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“So what’s a Republican, like me, doing at a wind farm?” asks GOP Colorado Senate candidate Cory Gardner in the ad above.
Damn good question, given the hostility to renewable energy that leading GOP funders and interest groups have been showing in recent years, and the current political campaign.

NYTimes:

In Senate races in the general election, the analysis found, energy and the environment are the third-most mentioned issue in political advertisements, behind health care and jobs.

The explosion of energy and environmental ads also suggests the prominent role that the issues could play in the 2016 presidential race, especially as megadonors — such as Thomas F. Steyer, a California billionaire and environmental activist on the left, and Charles G. and David H. Koch, billionaire brothers on the right — take sides. Leaders of major environmental groups like the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters said they had collectively spent record amounts of money in this election cycle.

“Candidates are using energy and environment as a sledgehammer to win a race,” said Elizabeth Wilner, the senior vice president for politics at Kantar Media/CMAG.

Groups representing the energy industry and environmental advocacy have typically been the lead players in presenting policy positions in ads, but this year the candidates themselves and party political committees are also taking on that role.

“What’s important about what’s going on right now is the extent to which the Democrats feel confident playing offense on environmental and energy issues, and the extent to which polling shows that they are scoring when they do that,” said Geoff Garin, a Democratic pollster.

What pollsters know, and what candidates are finding out, is that climate and energy issues work to move voters.  In Mr. Gardner’s home state of Colorado, renewable energy is popular, and concerns about climate and environment are high – leading Democratic interest groups to seek to tie Mr. Gardner’s record of climate denial to his stands on other social issues where he seems to be out of step with his constituency.

The election results will tell us something about how well these kinds of attacks, and responses, have worked – but the swing in voter attitudes on climate change is unlikely to stop, especially given the possibility that 2014 could be the hottest year ever in the NASA surface temperature record, and if a developing El Nino warming event in the Pacific plays out in coming months, 2015 could be hotter still.

 

Denise Bode, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association, writes the Texas heat/drought/power crisis revealed several lessons: wind power enhances a grid’s reliability, conventional power plants can’t operate all the time, wind farms that are dispersed are more dependable, and output from offshore and coastal wind farms can meet peak demand during summer:

It’s over, for the moment: ERCOT, the company that manages the Texas utility system, said Monday that it doesn’t expect peak electricity demand this week to surpass last week’s record levels.
As he did after a sudden freeze stressed the Texas system in FebruaryERCOT CEO Trip Doggett credited wind power with a critical contribution during last week’s power emergency. Doggett said electricity from wind farms recently installed along Texas’s Gulf Coast began flowing at just the right time to help meet peak demand in the late afternoons.

With that in mind, some lessons from the week’s real-world experience with substantial amounts of installed wind generating capacity on a large utility system:

Adding wind power makes a utility system more reliable, not less.

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When the Earthquake/tsunami closed down all of Japan’s nuclear power plants, I reported that wind was one of the only remaining reliable, tsunami proof sources of power.

Now, Dallas Morning News quotes ERCOT, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which manages the state’s electrical systems:

The Texas electrical grid operator began emergency procedures to prevent total blackout on Tuesday as the heat lead to record electricity demand, and told customers to brace for a repeat in the next few days.

The high temperatures also caused about 20 power plants to stop working, including at least one coal-fired plant and natural gas plants.

..such outages aren’t unusual in the hot summer, and Texas is getting some juice from surrounding states and from Mexico.

According to an ERCOT spokesman, conventional power plants suffer in this kind of heat.

“They can’t really efficiently condense the steam that’s used to make electricity, so that causes unit deratings that they can’t generate as much as they could if the lake were cooler.”

The American Wind Energy Association notes: 

Meanwhile, some 1,800 MW of wind generation were available yesterday, more than double the 800 MW that ERCOT counts on during periods of peak summer demand for its long-term planning purposes. 1,800 MW is enough to power about 360,000 homes under the very high electricity demand seen yesterday.

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This rural school district is an energy producer, and earns $120,000. annually doing it.
What would the impact be,  if this were applied to rural schools and small communities across the country?

This is another example of how renewable energy systems, and distributed, smart grid solutions, can empower small communities, small businesses, and even individuals – see below–

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Thufferin' thuckatath...

From the New York Times:

While public attention has focused on wind turbines as a menace to birds, a new study shows that a far greater threat may be posed by a more familiar antagonist: the pet house cat.

new study in The Journal of Ornithology on the mortality of baby gray catbirds in the Washington suburbs found that cats were the No. 1 killer in the area, by a large margin.

Nearly 80 percent of the birds were killed by predators, and cats were responsible for 47 percent of those deaths, according to the researchers, from the Smithsonian Institution and Towson University in Maryland. Death rates were particularly high in neighborhoods with large cat populations.

This is, of course, more confirmation of what my own research for a pair of wind energy videos showed.
(I’ve embedded them below the fold)

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Click for Larger Image

How much is there? More than we thought.

According to Dennis Elliott, NREL’s (National Renewable Energy Laboratory) principal scientist in wind resource assessment, “areas with gross capacity factor of 30% and greater are generally considered to have suitable wind resource for wind development with today’s advanced wind turbine technology. The new estimates for 80-m height and capacity factor of 30% and greater indicate about 10,500 gigawatts (GW) developable potential in the contiguous United States, compared to previous estimates of 7,000 to 8,000 GW for 50-m height and power Class 3 and greater.”

How much is that?

Well, a very large nuclear reactor might put out one gigawatt.

I couldn’t fit nearly enough into my first wind video, and many of the unused clips address questions that viewers have since asked.

Script: Read the rest of this entry »