August 10, 2010 - Martha's Vineyard wind; Ocean Energy Institute

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A sign seen on the shore of Martha's Vineyard at Aquinnah.  Like Martha's Vineyard and Vinalhaven, many island communities are considering whether wind turbines -- either onshore or offshore -- are a wise move.

In ocean energy news, Matthew Simmons, the founder of the Rockland, Maine-based Ocean Energy Institute has died.  Simmons was the founder Simmons & Co. International, an investment banking firm focusing on energy.  Convinced of the value of ocean energy, in 2007, he founded the Ocean Energy Institute as "a think-tank and venture capital fund addressing the challenges of U.S. offshore renewable energy".  Echoing a trope we have heard often lately, Simmons once gave a slideshow in which he is reported to have said, "The Gulf of Maine will soon become a Silicon Valley and begin proving ocean energy can be captured, processed and turned into a replacement for modern energy and water."

The city of South Portland, Maine is considering forming a nonprofit energy supply company to save citizens money on their electricity supply.  The business, putatively called South Portland Energy, would buy power at wholesale in the NEPOOL market and sell it to the city -- and perhaps also to residential and commercial ratepayers.  This kind of nonprofit competitive electricity supplier can cut ratepayers' supply costs, without requiring the formation of a municipal electric transmission and distribution utility.

Railroad tracks form an important kind of infrastructure; walking and hiking paths form another.  The balance between replacing rail tracks with hiking trails is an interesting policy question.  This Portland Press Herald editorial suggests that foot paths should not replace rail; the two can coexist, but a path should not preclude the use of the right of way for passenger and freight service.

Cogentrix has signed a 20 year contract with Xcel Energy subsidiary Public Service Company of Colorado for the output of its 30 MW concentrating photovoltaic solar energy plant.  The project, located in southern Colorado, relies on a concentrating photovoltaic technology using lenses to focus incoming sunlight onto solar photovoltaic cells.  This results in a higher energy density (in kW per acre) than other solar technologies.

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