News roundup: Austin Energy leads the way, Panhandle in transit, U. of Iowa innovates in wind

In today’s roundup: Austin Energy continues to lead the way in clean energy sales, Pattern’s Panhandle wind project is moving along, and University of Iowa researchers capitalize on partnerships with businesses to innovate in wind power.

For the eighth year in a row, Austin Energy’s customers are setting the example for consumers who want to take advantage of clean, plentiful wind resources:

  • For the eighth year in a row, Austin Energy led the nation in 2009 in voluntary renewable energy sales by a utility-sponsored green power program, according to rankings released yesterday by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Austin Energy sold 764.8 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of renewable energy — enough power to supply about 60,000 residential customers with all their electricity needs for one year.
  • Using information provided by utilities, NREL developed “Top 10” rankings of utility programs for 2009 in the following categories: total sales of renewable energy to program participants, total number of customer participants, the percentage of customer participation, green power sales as a percentage of total utility retail electricity sales, and the lowest price premium charged for a green power program using new renewable resources.
  • Ranked by the percentage of customer participation, the top utilities are City of Palo Alto Utilities (Calif.), Portland General Electric, Madison Gas and Electric Company (Wis.), the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, and the City of Naperville (Ill.). (See attached tables for additional rankings).

Pattern’s Panhandle 1 and 2 projects in Texas are on the move, with parts from as far as Iowa contributing to the project:

  • Pattern Energy is beginning to move wind farm components on specially built trailers through the city of Panhandle, bound for the two projects it’s installing north of town.
  • Pattern’s contractor, Mortenson Construction, is nearing completion of Panhandle 1 and is making gains on Panhandle 2, which the company estimates will be in operation late this year. The company has 300 to 400 workers on the sites, depending on what task is under way, said Phil Barutha, project manager for Mortenson.
  • Combined, [Pattern 1 and 2] will have a capacity of 400 megawatts.

Researchers at the University of Iowa are teaming up with businesses in the wind industry to innovate in areas like the smart grid, better software, and lower cost:

  • The UI Office of the Provost presented its first Lunch and Learn event in Iowa City on Monday. UI Executive Vice President and Provost P. Barry Butler spoke on the expansion and significance of wind energy in his presentation “Wind Energy: Past, Present, and Future.” States located in the middle of the United States have some of the highest wind-energy capacity, which is why Iowans have an increased interest in the renewable energy source.
  • Fred Streicher, the director of marketing and communications for UI College of Engineering, said the university teams up with wind-power industries around the state to research new technology and software to make systems more affordable and available. A big area of research is creating a smart grid, a digital information program to improve the reliability, efficiency, and economics of the production and distribution of electricity.
  • “It’s a shared partnership and doesn’t cost either of us a lot of money,” said Robert Loyd, the president of the Cedar Rapids company [Clipper Windpower]. “We provide the school with our real-life data, equipment, and monitoring center for their research. It then helps us learn about innovations other industries are using and ways to operate better.”

Be sure to check out this week’s other news roundup: Lawmakers urge PTC renewal, Missouri's largest wind farm, Vestas grows in CO


Staff, “Austin Energy again leads nation in green power sales.” 24 March 2014.

Kevin Welch, “Wind farm parts pass through Panhandle.” Amarillo Globe News. 24 March 2014.

Michelle Ngo, “UI researchers try to expand wind-energy options.” The Daily Iowan. 25 March 2014.


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