A study released on 10/14/04 by the Renewable Energy Policy Project finds that thousands of jobs could be created by increasing the number of wind turbine installations across the U.S. and that many of these jobs would be in the states (like Ohio) that have been hit hardest by job loss in the last three years. Read more.
Associated Press today carries the following article http://biz.yahoo.com/ap/041002/wall_main_2.html
Not Many Alternatives for Energy Investors
Saturday October 2, 5:10 pm ET
By Meg Richards, AP Business Writer
Oil Prices May Raise Interest in Alternative Energy Stocks, Though Not Many Firms Profitable
NEW YORK (AP) -- With oil prices soaring, investors may be wondering what options there are among renewable energy stocks. The answer is, not many. Fuel cell companies are floundering, solar startups are far from solid bets and only a handful of companies are turning a profit in wind power.
For small investors who think climbing oil prices are bound to spark greater interest in other sources of power eventually, some of the most interesting plays could be among traditional companies that are exploring alternative energies -- General Electric Co., FPL Group Inc. and BP PLC.
The problem with most companies focused purely on non-petroleum power is they tend to be relatively young, have weak balance sheets and frequently focus on technologies that aren't yet commercially viable. Some of the most attractive investments are overseas, and not readily available to U.S. investors.
"Unfortunately and tragically there are simply not a lot of alternative energy sources being developed," said Stephen Leeb, president of Leeb Capital Management and co-author of "The Oil Factor," which suggests crude prices will likely strike $100 a barrel by the end of the decade, if not sooner.
"It's sad, but that's the reason oil is at nearly $50 per barrel," Leeb said. "If there were a whole universe of alternative energy companies making lots of money, you probably wouldn't have an energy crisis today."
With so much money yet to be made in oil, there hasn't been a great deal of investor interest in renewable sources of power, analysts say.
"It's been an interesting disconnect," said Matthew Patsky, portfolio manager of the Winslow Green Growth fund. "The renewable energy stocks in general went down when oil was falling and went down when oil was rising. You'd think they'd trade with oil ... but it's been a tough market for renewable energy stocks in general, and particularly for the fuel cell companies."
There are high hopes that emission-free hydrogen fuel-cells will replace gas-guzzling cars and start producing power in homes, but this technology is still in the early development stages. Companies like FuelCell Energy Inc., Plug Power Inc. and Ballard Power Systems Inc., a Canadian concern partly owned by auto manufacturers Ford Motor Corp. and DaimlerChrysler AG, remain unprofitable.
In such a speculative market, Patsky's firm chose to invest in Quantum Fuel Systems Technologies Worldwide, Inc., a company focused on designing the hydrogen storage technologies that help power the fuel cells in cars. Toyota Motor Co., which has emerged as a leading manufacturer of hybrid cars, accounts for 44 percent of its sales. General Motors Corp., which owns 11 percent of the company, accounts for the rest.
When it comes to producing electricity for homes and businesses, the most readily deployable alternative to fossil fuel is wind. And as oil prices continue to rise, it's becoming an increasingly attractive option.
"At $10 per barrel for oil, it makes no sense to use wind. But at $50 per barrel, wind makes a lot of sense," Patsky said. "Wind broke to a point of being economical in most parts of this country vis-a-vis the cost of electricity back when oil passed $30 per barrel, and now it's incredibly economical. I don't think there's very many places in the country where there's a cheaper way to produce energy than wind."
The pure wind plays are in Europe, where the largest turbine manufacturer is Vestas Wind Systems, based in Denmark. Its competitors include Gamesa Corporacion Tecnologica S.A., a Spanish company, and GE Energy, the largest U.S.-based player in wind, though it's only a tiny portion of the conglomerate's overall business.
Wind plays a much more substantial role at Florida-based utility FPL, making up about 15 percent of its earnings, and the business segment has grown at a rapid pace over the last several years.
"FPL is such an easy way to play it," Leeb said. "If wind continues to grow, as I think it must, then you end up with a very dynamic growth stock. And if for whatever reason they don't pursue it, you've still got a great utility."
At a certain point, solar power starts looking more economical, as well, though with the demise of AstroPower, Inc. -- the company filed for bankruptcy and sold most of its assets to GE Energy earlier this year -- few opportunities are available. Among recent startups is Evergreen Solar Inc., a Marlboro, Mass.-based developer of solar electricity systems for homes. Traditionally, solar power has been economical in remote locations where it's not practical to run power lines, but while it has served as a decent supplemental source of energy, it has not been a true substitute for fossil fuel.
Among the major energy companies, BP has done the most to develop alternative fuels, investing in solar and wind power as well as financing research into applications for hydrogen. Though many remain skeptical that the world's largest integrated oil concern is really looking "beyond petroleum," the steps it's taken so far have led some socially conscious investors to deem it best in its class.
"BP is legit, it's for real, and it's spending a lot of money ... trying to broaden its reach to be a full-service energy company meeting the needs of the future," Patsky said. "We'd certainly rather see people invest in BP than Exxon Mobil Corp., where management still denies that global warming is happening. BP has made statements that they want to do whatever they can to reduce the contributions that fossil fuels make to global warming ... and that's a big statement for a company to make, to admit its product is part of the problem."
END OF ARTICLE
As usual, Vestas, GE, and Gamesa are the wind turbine manufacturers mentioned along with the comment that there does not seem to be any rational connection between the stock prices of pure play green energy companies and oil prices. What this writer misses is the fact that there are a good 10 pure play European wind turbine manufacturers with publicly listed stocks.
Who knows of a stock exchange or market maker that specializes in wind stocks? Let me know....
Good news for wind power development. Congress finally passed an extension of the PTC through 2005. Read more.
The New York Public Services Commission voted on 9/22/04 for a new renewable portfolio standard(RPS), calling for a minimum of 25% of the electricity sold to NY consumers to be from renewable sources by 2013. Read more.
In the May issue of Wind Power Monthly there’s a short article announcing the plans of Global Energy Systems to open a wind turbine tower component factory in Stevens Point Wisconsin in the fall of 2004. It would be the first fully automated factory in the U.S. for wind components. GES projects that with or without the extension of the Production Tax Credit by Congress, the wind market will continue to grow and along with it the demand for towers.
There are no recent updates on the web, so I don’t know if the plant will open this fall or not. Perhaps the skyrocketing costs of steel have created delays.
Just got back from a lecture at CWRU given by visiting lecturer David Goodstein, vice provost and professor of physics and applied physics at California Institute of Technology, entitled Out of Gas-The End of the Age of Oil(link). His closing prediction was that civilization as we know it will come to end in this century. His lecture detailed the fast dwindling supplies of fossil fuels, the global dependence on energy produced with these fuels, and the negative effects this dependence has perpetrated on the environment.
While he is hoping that his dire assessment will spur research on alternatives- both nuclear and solar(under which heading he placed wind, biomass, pv, etc)- he only mentioned these alternatives briefly and was not particularly encouraging- e.g. according to Dr. Goodstein, “wind turbines are noisy and ugly”. Clearly Dr. Goodstein is not the man to send out to proselytize for wind energy ( Apparently he hasn’t visited the windfarm in Fenner NY, where the 20 1.5MW GE Wind Energy turbines are virtually silent. check out), but his facts regarding the gravity of the current situation with regard to fossil fuels could be useful.
The American Bird Conservancy has developed an official policy with regard to wind energy and its potential impact on bird and bat populations. While they express concern for bird and bat fatalities caused by wind turbines ( a graph addressing causes of bird fatalities -from wind turbines at <1 in 10,000 to those caused by buildings and windows at 5,500/10,000 can be viewed at ), they also recognize that wind, as a renewable source of energy, has none of the negative side effects associated with the generation of power by burning fossil fuels. They note that power plants are the largest industrial air polluter in the U.S., emitting sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, carbon dioxide, particulates, and mercury, all of which have deleterious effects on wildlife as well as humans. SO2 and NO cause acid rain, and carbon dioxide has been identified as the chief greenhouse gas contributing to climate change or global warming; both results that harm birds and bats. Consequently, rather than oppose wind energy, they suggest that “each state should adopt guidelines or regulations to assure the prevention or minimization of avian impacts from new wind turbine construction and operation”.
To review the entire policy go to .
Wind Force 12 is an informative report sponsored by the European Wind Energy Association and Green Peace on the global status of wind power(Read more). Published in May 2004, it is the5th edition of a study initially commissioned by the Danish Forum for Energy and Development. A section devoted to the United States recognizes that the US has an “enormous wind resource” whose commercial realization has been hindered by the fact that Congress allowed the federal wind energy production tax credit to expire at the end of 2003 for the third time in less than five years.
Still, even without a stable national policy the industry installed 1,687MW in 2003. Fourteen states now have set minimum renewable energy requirements for their utilities’ generation mix.
As the report notes: “Unlike some other ‘solutions’ to clean energy and climate protection, wind power does not need to be invented, not is there a need to wait for any magical ‘breakthrough’; it is ready for global implementation now. Modern wind farms provide bulk power equivalent to conventional power stations.”
In February of 2004 the University of Buffalo was recognized for being the largest single wind energy purchaser in New York state. In 2003 UB met 4% of its electrical needs with a power purchase from 5 of the 10 660KW Vestas turbines at the Wethersfield wind farm near Warsaw, NY, and in 2004 UB agreed to purchase the output of three of the twenty 1.5MW GE turbines at the Fenner Windfarm near Canastota, NY. These purchases allowed UB to reach the 10% green power goal called for by NYS ahead of schedule. This goal was outlined in Executive Order 111 issued by Governor Pataki in 2001and calling for all NY state agencies and authorities to fill 10% of their power needs from green sources by 2005. Are there any comparable goals for Ohio? To learn more about UB’s and the state of New York’s green power commitments go to