The steering committee had a real earful today of great news from Remy and the Center for Wind Energy at James Madison University. This high energy person is well suited to her job of helping to push renewable energy forward against all odds.
An interesting new development is their program of loaner solar panels in “Wind for Schools” in which educators devise educational displays employing the panels, with the plans for electrical connections to ensure it works. One cleverly designed function runs fans in an outdoor play area, mounted on uprights of a large covered sandbox. They have about a dozen panels still available for loan if you have some bright ideas!
The Center’s education/outreach/research and deployment wing is becoming more diverse in its focus, as they add solar and energy efficiency to their bag of tricks. They operate regional wind challenges in Middle and High school competitions as well, with cash prizes to encourage students and their teachers. There is another competition for college students.
Do check out the Center for Wind Energy’s website, which is lavish with enticing ideas and applications, including events for homeowners, professional certification and training for solar installers and energy auditors. There is even help available in crafting new ordinances for governmental uses of alternative energy and energy efficiency measures.
New work involving research on distributed wind for onsite electrical generation (mostly rooftop) under one megawatt is particularly exciting, involving new types of turbines, as well as larger projects on state-owned facilities in collaboration with the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy and the Virginia Department of Transportation, etc. Revolving loan programs are under development, but there are questions still to be resolved. Dominion will remain the provider, but there is progress.
As with many other great ideas, the key to development of wind energy in the US depends on good policies. Tax credits have been helpful, but that funding is has been intermittent and too short term for big projects. While distributed wind electrical generation is currently found mostly in the midwest and overall deployment in the US is small, there is potential for up to 30% of total electrical generation by 2050, with plenty of good places in Virginia, including offshore. Dominion continues to be a brake on this form of renewable energy as well, and there presently isn’t much movement on wind development in Virginia. They lost funding for their advanced wind plan for offshore, but still own the leases. They may lose those rights as well if they don’t act soon.
Among frequently asked questions is that of impact on bird populations. At this point, land bird kills by wind turbines are less problematic than by feral cats, skyscrapers and other buildings. Current evidence from Europe suggests that avoidance of offshore turbines by birds is frequent, and deaths are fewer. Population health of all indigenous wildlife must be considered in planning, but with proper siting, kills can be greatly reduced. Regarding impact on bats, it has been learned that bats feed most heavily when winds are still and insects more abundant. As little electricity is generated under those conditions, simply turning turbines off when wind speeds are low can reduce bat kills by as much as 80%.
Major factors involved in feasibility studies of wind development include winds, space, topography, proximity to transmission lines, proximity to substation and high kilovolt lines, environmental impacts, wildlife, aesthetic issues, and presence/absence of forest cover. Projects that have been proposed and prospected include the Highland Wind Project which has been on hold for years, and the Rocky Forge Project in Botetourt County which is awaiting state approval, but sidetracked by a suit from nearby Rockbridge County on aesthetic grounds. It is a bald mountain only used for hunting with good winds that would generate about 150 jobs in construction and 5-7 permanent jobs afterward, with an estimated $25 million in economic benefits to the area.
Remy encourages contact for her help in working with curriculum development or applications—or a great program for your organization! Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
– Anne Nielsen, for the CAAV Coalition-Building Committee, February 21, 2017
Each month, the CAAV Coalition-Building Committee invites a community member or group to present to the CAAV steering committee about projects with which they are involved. We are grateful to be working with so many other groups and individuals passionate about creating a more resilient, healthy and just world.