Archive for the ‘Phil’s Files’ Category

American Wind Energy Association Annual Meeting

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

by Phil DeVita

Steve Barrett and I just returned from the three day American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) annual conference held in Dallas, Texas.  This was my fourth AWEA conference and each year I am amazed by the magnitude of the event with 20,000 attendees and a record 1400 exhibitors! The exhibitors range from developers, consultants, transportation, and turbine manufactures right down to the nuts and bolts of the industry (literally!).   It is truly amazing to see the diverse industry required to support wind energy.

Background

For background, the U.S. is the world leader in wind energy generation with 35,000 MW installed to date.  China is a close second, and will probably pass the U.S. this year in total wind capacity.  For perspective, in 2009 the U.S. installed over 10,000 MW of wind capacity which is equivalent to powering about 2.4 million homes.  The U.S. has been an industry leader, however, initial estimates for the first half of 2010 show a slowdown in new generation, and without a national renewable policy, the outlook is uncertain. 

National RES

The conference highlighted the need for a national renewable electricity standard (RES) to provide certainty for developers, create jobs, and ensure the U.S. continues to be the leader in the wind industry. Some of the factors attributing to the slowdown are:

  • Reduced power demand;
  • Cheaper natural gas prices;
  • Transmission challenges; and
  • A lack of a national RES

A slowdown in new energy projects also casts a dark shadow on future job growth in the sector.  A recent study conducted by Navigant Consulting showed that if a national portfolio standard of 25 percent renewables by 2025 was enacted, a total of 266,000 new jobs could be generated.  Many states have adopted state specific renewable portfolio standards (RPS) which require utilities to purchase a certain amount of their power from renewable sources.  The problem with state RPS’s are some states have already met or will meet their requirements; therefore state requirements will not be enough to drive the industry in the future. 

Speakers

One of the highlights of the conference was a candid talk by former President George W. Bush who now resides in Dallas.  The president spoke about his energy policies while in office and governor of Texas.  He highlighted the progress the state has made since 1999 when he signed a state renewable portfolio standard setting the stage for Texas leading the way in wind generation.  He also spoke very candidly about his time in office reliving some of the memorable events of his terms such as 9/11, Katrina, and the Iraq war.  The former president also talked about his personal commitment to sustainability where he has installed geothermal heating at his home in Crawford, and his new library at Southern Methodist University will be LEED certified.    He looked very relaxed and comfortable in his life away from politics and gave us a glimpse of his new memoir coming out in the fall detailing some of the major decisions he made in office.

North Dakota Senator Byron Dorgan discussed the great strides wind energy has made through the years and the need for a national RES standard to enable the wind industry to maintain momentum into the future.  The senator believes in a diverse generating portfolio including fossil fuels, natural gas, coal and renewable energy.  He feels renewable energy is part of our national interest and we should start divesting from foreign sources of energy.  The senator is hoping to vote this summer on an energy bill which contains a national RES.  The senator also spoke of his frustration over the state of our transmission system and the need to modernize it. Transmission is one of the siting constraints developers face to deliver power generated in rural areas to the load centers. An example he gave was over the last decade, the country has built 11,000 miles of natural gas pipeline but only 660 miles of high voltage electricity lines. 

There was also an interesting roundtable discussion with Governors Chet Culver of Iowa, Bill Ritter of Colorado, and Ted Strickland of Ohio.  The governors highlighted the success stories of renewable energy projects in their state and the benefits of the wind industry in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and bringing jobs to their states.  They also reinforced the need for a national RES to maintain renewable energy development which in turn creates more jobs.

That’s about it from Big D and look forward to seeing everyone next year in Anaheim, California.

EPA Delays Greenhouse Gas Stationary Permits Until 2011

Monday, April 5th, 2010

by Phil DeVita

On March 29, 2010, the EPA issued a final decision to delay the greenhouse gas permitting requirements for stationary sources until January 2011.  The delay allows facilities and state agencies to adequately prepare to cut GHG emissions.  This announcement is a first step to what the agency called a “phasing in” approach to addressing GHG emissions.  The phased approach will require large stationary sources that already must apply for Clean Air Act (CAA) permits to address their GHG emissions in their permit applications in the first half of 2011.  Other large sources will need to address their emissions in the latter half of 2011.  The permits will require sources to prove they are using the best available control technology (BACT) to reduce emissions.  Typical large sources include power plants, factories, and refineries.  The emission threshold requiring a GHG permit has not been finalized, however, the EPA expects that the threshold will be higher than the 25,000 ton limit originally proposed.  

EPA is also expected to announce on April 1st final GHG standards for cars and trucks.  These standards will not take effect until January, 2011 for the 2012-2016 model years. 

This announcement is part of EPA’s response to comply with the Supreme Court’s decision three years ago in the Massachusetts v. EPA case.  In the landmark decision, the court ruled that greenhouse gases are subject to regulation under the Clean Air Act.  In December of 2009, EPA determined that GHG pollution endangers the public health and welfare, as such, it believes it is obligated under the CAA to issue greenhouse gas emissions standards for motor vehicles.

Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska recently introduced a “disapproval resolution” that would block EPA from moving ahead on these issues.  The disapproval resolution is currently in committee and there is no timeline for a potential vote.  On the other front, the “cap and trade” bill which would impose steadily declining limits of GHG emissions from large industrial sources has passed the House of Representatives and is stalled in the Senate.  Many Midwest lawmakers, who’s districts are dependant on energy produced by coal, are wary of the implications the bill will have on electricity costs.  After the healthcare debate, many believe the time may not be right for another contentious debate on cap and trade. 

Stay tuned.

EPA Issues New Short-term NO2 National Ambient Air Quality Standard

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

by Phil DeVita

On January 22, 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) strengthened the primary national ambient air quality standard (NAAQS) for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) by adding a 1-hour NO2standard of 100 ppb.  The EPA administration is retaining the current annual standard of 53 ppb.

The EPA decided the existing annual standard does not provide sufficient protection of public health in the short-term period and believes the new standard will protect against adverse health effects associated with short-term exposure near roadways and urban areas. Current scientific evidence suggests short-term exposures to peak NO2 concentrations correlates with adverse respiratory effects to sensitive populations (i.e., children and the elderly) leading to increased visits to emergency rooms.

Currently, all areas of the U.S. comply with the existing annual NO2 standard.  EPA will designate attainment and non-attainment areas for the new standard by January 2012.  Over the last 30 years, annual NO2 concentrations have continued to decrease.  This decline is mainly attributed to more efficient automobile engines due to the implementation of emission standards for light-duty vehicles.  With the phasing in of emission standards for heavy duty engines in newer vehicles, we should continue to see decreases in NO2 emissions in the future.

Studies have shown that NO2 concentrations are typically higher near roadways when compared to existing monitor locations maintained by state agencies.  Concentrations in heavy traffic areas can be as much as two times greater than residential areas.  As part of this action, EPA is requiring changes to the monitoring network to protect the public health from high short-term concentrations near major roadways, urban areas (i.e., areas with a population greater than 1 million people), and in communities vulnerable to NO2related health effects. These new monitoring and reporting requirements will begin by January 1, 2013.  Once these new monitors are in place, EPA at their discretion could re-designate attainments areas in 2016 or 2017.

The new short-term standard will affect all types of emission sources including aviation, mobile sources, and fossil fuel combustion sources.  For new projects subject to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and located in a NO2 non-attainment region, general conformity determinations will need to demonstrate project emissions will not exceed the new standards prior to receiving federal funding.  This may subject some sources to additional mitigation measures and could require a source to obtain emissions offsets.   In addition to NEPA review, a project may also need to demonstrate compliance with the new standard in order to receive approval under a state environmental policy act or an air quality permit.   One way of addressing compliance with the standard is conducting air dispersion modeling.  Air dispersion modeling is typically used by new or existing facilities to demonstrate compliance with the NAAQS.   Moving forward, dispersion modeling could be an effective tool many sources will utilize in demonstrating compliance with the new standard.

Proposed Air Quality Standards for Sulfur Dioxide

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

by Phil DeVita

For the first time since 1971, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed to revise the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for sulfur dioxide (SO2).  The proposal calls for a new 1-hour standard.  The current SO2 standard consists of a primary 24-hour and annual standard.  There is also a secondary 3-hour standard.  The primary standards were set to protect the public health including the health of the sensitive population (e.g. asthmatics, children, and the elderly).  The secondary standard was established to address public welfare and the environment.  Recent health studies have linked short-term (e.g. ranging from 5 minutes to 24-hours) SO2 exposures to adverse respiratory effects including increased asthma symptoms and bronchoconstriction.

The EPA is currently taking comments on the new 1-hour standard ranging from 50 and 100 parts per billion (ppb).  Since the revised standard would be more protective, the EPA is proposing to revoke the current 24-hour and annual standard.  The current proposal only addresses the primary standards.  EPA will address the secondary standard (e.g. 3-hour) under a second proposal in 2011.  The current and proposed SO2 standards are presented in the following tables.

Current Standards

Averaging Time

Primary Standards

Secondary Standards

3-Hour

none

500 ppb

24-Hour

140 ppb

none

Annual

30 ppb

none

Proposed Standards

Averaging Time

Primary Standards

Secondary Standards

1-Hour

(50 to 100 ppb)

none

3-Hour

none

500 ppb

24-Hour

Revoke

none

Annual

Revoke

None

EPA is also proposing changes to the monitoring requirements for SO2.  Monitors would be placed in urban areas and areas with high SO2 emission levels.  The proposal includes changing the Air Quality Index (AQI) to reflect the new standards thereby improving states’ abilities to alert the public when short-term levels may affect their health.

The public comment period is open for 60 days after the proposal is published in the Federal Register.  EPA will hold a public hearing on January 5, 2010 in Atlanta.   EPA must issue a final decision by June 2, 2010.

The proposed SO2 revision comes off the heels of EPA’s recent proposal to revise the nitrogen dioxide (NO2) standard.  EPA is proposing to include a new 1-hour NO2 standard ranging from 80-100 ppb while also soliciting comments as low as 65 ppb and  up to 150 ppb.  The proposal would retain the current annual standard of 53 ppb.  The comment period has closed on the NO2 standard and EPA must issue a final decision by January 22, 2010.

These proposed standards will affect all types of emission sources, including aviation.  For areas in non-attainment and maintenance regions, general conformity determinations will need to demonstrate that project emissions will not exceed these standards prior to FAA approving federal funding.

AWEA Annual Conference

Monday, May 18th, 2009

by Phil DeVita

I recently attended the WINDPOWER 2009 Conference and Exhibition in Chicago, Illinois  where HMMH was an exhibitor.  This was the fourth consecutive year we have exhibited at the conference – one that is rapidly becoming the marquee trade show in the wind energy business.

This year’s conference was the largest wind power event in the world, with over 23,000 attendees and 1,200 exhibiting companies.  For some perspective, this is up from 13,000 attendees last year in Houston, Texas and 1,000 attendees in 2001.

The conference was highlighted by talks from five Governors: Pat Quinn of Illinois, Ted Strickland of Ohio, Chet Culver of Iowa, Jim Doyle of Wisconsin, and Jennifer Graham of Michigan.  There were other Governors and economic development groups in attendance all vying for the attention of the wind industry to the benefits of their states and communities for locating renewable energy jobs.

The conference highlighted the advancement of wind energy technology over the years.  Last year alone, 8,500 MW of new windpower was installed, accounting for over 40% of the new generating capacity in the U.S.  In addition to the success of onshore wind, the Department of Interior’s Minerals Management Service (MMS) recently issued new rules for offshore wind development.  This should clear the way for developing future offshore wind projects and enable the U.S. to become a major player in offshore wind generation.

The conference also built upon the current administration’s commitment to renewable energy to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.  This was further highlighted by T. Boone Pickens and his talk about developing viable wind energy to produce electricity along with developing a national renewable energy standard (RES).  A national RES would force electricity producers across the nation to generate a certain percentage of electricity through renewable energy sources.  The national RES is currently being debated in Congress.

As evidenced by the presentations and discussions on the exhibition floor, noise is still a very important issue in siting and operating wind turbines.  HMMH has been involved in conducting noise studies for various wind turbine projects across the United States, including expert testimony for the Sheffield Wind Project.  HMMH has recently branched out from our core noise consulting business and is now capable of offering a broader array of consulting services related to wind energy, including visual assessments.  A list of our services can be viewed on our website

See you at next year’s WINDPOWER Conference in Dallas, Texas!