In green energy news, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) WINDPOWER 2016 tradeshow, Casino giants switching to clean power, and Silicon Valley energy activism.
A key theme at the AWEA-sponsored tradeshow was the transition of people, companies, and products from oil and gas into the wind industry.
The downturn in oil prices prompted many to move from one energy industry to another since the stability of the wind industry contrasts sharply with the “boom and bust” nature of oil markets. With the Production Tax Credit (PTC) for wind power extended through 2021, wind companies need only to keep bringing down costs at current rates to ensure steady growth into 2030. It also doesn’t hurt that some states, like Texas, have rapidly growing wind energy sectors within spitting distance of large oil and gas regions.
Meanwhile, Casino giants MGM Resorts International and Wynn Resorts Ltd. are moving forward with plans to stop buying electricity from the NV Energy utility in Nevada, according to filings with the Nevada Public Utilities Commission.
“It is our objective to reduce MGM’s environmental impact by decreasing the use of energy and aggressively pursuing renewable energy sources,” MGM Executive Vice President John McManus said in a letter included in the filing to state regulators.
Last year, three of Las Vegas’s largest casino operators including MGM, Las Vegas Sands Corp. and Wynn Las Vegas won approval from state regulators to stop buying power from NV Energy if they paid combined exit fees of almost $127 million.
The loss of electricity-hungry customers leaving the utility is damaging for the Nevada utility which has also been involved in a multi-year fight with rooftop solar developers over policies that allow homeowners who put panels on their roofs to sell power back to the grid.
The Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance, as they are calling themselves, was formed to break barriers to carbon emission reduction presented by utilities and regulators, the companies said on a conference call. Large energy consumers such as Facebook and Microsoft are able to buy power directly from renewable energy developers through power purchase agreements, but smaller firms can struggle to find similar agreements. Facebook, Microsoft and more than 60 companies hope to make it easier to access clean energy contracts.
For its own operations, Facebook wants to get half of its electricity from renewable sources by 2018 and eventually meet all of its needs from carbon-free sources, said Bill Weihl, company director of sustainability.
“Access to clean energy is one aspect we look for when we site data centers,” Weihl said. “We’re working together with utilities and regulators to design new products so we can all buy more clean energy.”