This week marked the Department of the Interior’s first offshore wind auction, which raised $3.8 million from awarding leases in the Department’s designated “offshore wind areas,” designed to move development from lease to completion on an expedited basis. Deepwater Wind LLC, based in Providence, RI, won the bid for an area off the RI and Massachusetts coast in what Interior Director of Offshore Energy Tommy Beaudreau called “a very robust and competitive sale.” Jeffrey Grybowski, Deepwater Wind’s CEO, said the site could be generating power as early as 2018.
Five years would be incredibly fast for an American offshore wind development. Cape Wind, the offshore wind project sited for Nantucket Sound off Massachusetts, has been in development for more than a decade. This week’s federal auction represents just one of several significant strides forward for American offshore wind development.
In June, the Danish pension fund PensionDenmark announced a $200 million loan for Cape Wind, noting that it already had several successful investments in European offshore wind. Google is also investing in offshore wind — specifically in the Atlantic Wind Connection, the transmission “backbone” that will connect the projects to the population, bringing the power to the people. New Bedford, Massachusetts, has begun to align itself as a hub for offshore wind activity, with the state building a port facility capable of serving as a staging area for construction of the giant wind turbines these projects will require.
At the same time, several large solar projects are set to come online. Ivanpah, which had what KCET called a “tough spring” due to technical setbacks, will be completed in mid-August. Arizona’s Solana Generating Station, which at 280 megawatts will be one of the largest solar plants of its kind in the world,will also begin transmitting power next month. Solana Generating Station boasts “solar power after dark” thanks to a battery-free heat storage system that can provide power for up to six hours after sunset.
In advanced vehicle news, Ford will be coming out with a compressed natural gas (CNG) engine option for the 2014 Ford F-150. The F-150 is Ford’s most popular vehicle, in addition to being the top-selling truck in America. The CNG-powered engine will cost about $10,000 more than a traditional gasoline system, but Kevin Koswick, Ford’s director of North American fleet, said customers can expect to see payback in as little as two or three years due to lower natural gas prices. Overall, Ford expects to sell 25% more CNG-fueled vehicles this year than it did in 2012.
Finally, another company has paid back a federal loan in full years before the deadline. Following Tesla’s lead, Sapphire Energy, a drop-in algae-based biofuels company, repaid its $54.5 million USDA loan. Cynthia ‘CJ’ Warner, CEO and chairman of Sapphire Energy, said, “With [USDA] backing, we did exactly what we set out to do. We grew our company, advanced our algae technologies, and built, on time and on budget, the first, fully operational, commercial demonstration, algae-to-energy facility that delivers a proven process for producing refinery-ready Green Crude oil. We could not have built this first of a kind facility without the support of the USDA.”
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