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Germany targets switch to 100% renewables for its electricity by 2050

Reuters in Berlain, the Guardian
Germany could derive all of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2050 and become the world’s first major industrial nation to kick the fossil-fuel habit, the country’s Federal Environment Agency said today.

The country already gets 16% of its electricity from wind, solar and other renewable sources – three times’ higher than the level it had achieved 15 years ago.

“A complete conversion to renewable energy by 2050 is possible from a technical and ecological point of view,” said Jochen Flasbarth, president of the Federal Environment Agency.

“It’s a very realistic target based on technology that already exists – it’s not a pie-in-the-sky prediction,” he said.

Thanks to its Renewable Energy Act, Germany is the world leader in photovoltaics: it expects to add more than 5,000 megawatts of photovoltaic capacity this year to reach a total of 14,000 megawatts. It is also the second-biggest wind-power producer after the United States. Some 300,000 renewable energy jobs have been created in Germany in the last decade…
(7 July 2010)

Report sees need for 500 additional biofuels plants

Philip Brasher, The Des Moines Register
More than 500 new biorefineries will be needed around the country to meet the nation’s goal of tripling biofuel consumption by 2022, according to a government study.

The Agriculture Department estimates in the report that the plants would cost about $168 billion, a price tag the USDA termed “substantial.”

There are about 200 corn ethanol plants now in operation nationwide, including 40 in Iowa.

A 2007 law required that refiners use 36 billion gallons of biofuels by 2022, with all but 15 billion gallons coming from sources other than corn. Meeting that target will require building facilities that can convert a wide range of new biofuel feedstocks, including crop residue, forest thinnings, municipal waste, perennial grasses and other sources of cellulose. The industry is expected to easily reach 15 billion gallons of corn ethanol production by 2015.
“The bottom line here is that we need to make a commitment to this industry,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Biofuel developers have proposed a range of facilities that would make ethanol from material as diverse as wood, garbage and corncobs, but few of the projects have gotten off the ground. Industry officials say it has become virtually impossible to find investors willing to put money into the projects…
(24 June 2010)
The report can be found here. -KS

No link between wind turbines and health: report
There is no evidence that wind turbines have a direct adverse effect on human health, according to an independent study by Australia’s National Health & Medical Research Council.

There is currently no published scientific evidence to positively link wind turbines with adverse health effects, concludes the Council in a public statement that examines evidence of potential health impacts on people living in close proximity to wind turbines.

“Wind power has been gaining prominence as a viable sustainable alternative to other forms of energy production,” including the introduction in Australia of the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Act in 2000 and the Renewable Energy Target Scheme in 2009.

“As with any new technology, wind turbines are not without controversy,” it notes. “Those who oppose the development of wind farms contend that wind turbines can adversely impact the health of individuals living in close proximity.”…
(5 July 2010)
The public statement referred to in the article can be found here. But see below. -KS

Residents reject wind farm health findings

Kellie Lazzaro, ABC News (Australia)
Campaigners against wind farms have rejected a report finding no scientific evidence to link wind turbines to health problems.

The National Health and Medical Research Council, which advises the Federal Government, found that there was no evidence that the turbines’ low frequency noise or shadow flicker made people sick.

But residents of Waubra in Victoria’s south-west who live near the state’s largest wind farm, say they are sick and are convinced that wind turbines are to blame.

Noel Dean has a farm at Waubra but he and his family moved out 13 months ago when their headaches worsened…
(5 July 2010)

Locally Owned Wind Power: Quaint it Ain’t

Melinda Burns, Miller-McCune
The financial crisis is a blessing in disguise for community wind power, an underserved sector of the burgeoning U.S. wind industry. And turbines are giving old farms a second wind.

Kent Madison, a third-generation farmer in eastern Oregon, used to cuss when the wind blew hard and kicked up dust and kept him from spraying his crops. But now, with 18 windmills on his farm, he sees dollars, not dust, every time the wind blows. Those windmills are each bringing in $6,000 to $8,000 in rent yearly. In a dozen years or so, Madison, who farms wheat, alfalfa and vegetables on 17,000 acres, will own three windmills virtually outright, plus the revenues from the electricity they produce, plus he’ll still be getting rent for the other 15.

“It’s a pretty good little retirement,” he said. “The ground that the turbines took out of production was a total of six acres. It’s literally thousands of dollars I couldn’t make on low-value rangeland or dry land farming. Now, the wind blows and I go, ‘Look at that!’”

Madison and two of his neighbors, also wheat farmers, joined last year with three outside investor groups, including tractor-maker John Deere and Oregon Wind LLC, to build a 36-turbine wind farm on their land. The Echo Wind Farm, as it is called, is reportedly the only one in Oregon in which the local landowners will eventually own some of the wind turbines, a more profitable venture for them than simply leasing their land to a developer. The windmills have been supplying electricity to Pacific Power, serving Pendleton, Ore., since October.

All of the partners benefited from a new federal program, a treasury cash grant for renewable energy provided under the American Recovery and Investment Act of 2009. The grant paid 30 percent of their construction costs, or about $49 million….
(11 July 2010)
Related Miller-McCune articles: Mixed Messages on Green Homes