In It To Win-d It: How Wind Energy Can Help Solve Clean Energy Demands
Updated: Sep 6
By Macy Myers: Global demand for clean energy has skyrocketed and the Water, Energy, and Technology Center, among many other organizations, are working to achieve those international goals by 2050. These goals are hefty, leaving many feeling like they may not have the understanding or the means to accomplish them on a small/large scale. We, however, don’t think it has to be so overwhelming! For this newsletter, we will focus on clean energy options, specifically wind energy, and how we can reach a more resilient future in both big and small ways!
Do you like renewable energy? Actually, I'm a big fan.
Of the available clean energy options, wind energy keeps growing in the clean energy sector. While much of the growth we have seen is in offshore wind farms, even more, can be done on a small scale on land. Specifically in California, while we work towards a more reliable and resilient energy grid, we can consider small-scale wind turbines in a hybrid system on farms or at home. Farmers could consider using windmills to power their water pumps or other ag operations. The Central Valley could greatly benefit from this as they would have clean and reliable energy despite the chaotic weather events and an overloaded energy grid, which we discussed in previous blogs. Wind turbines are also becoming easier to repair and recycle. It is important for people to know about hybrid systems, as well as clean and renewable energy sources.
Why is money called dough? Because we all knead it!
No, seriously. There still is a monetary “knead” in order to implement clean energy across the board. Although these options can rack up a significant cost, they still have bountiful long-term benefits. (AKA, a strong return on investment!) When coupled with incentivized funding, this can become a realistic possibility for farmers. Federal, state, and local government funding offers incentives and rebates to those who integrate clean energy into their property and operations. Farmers can be made aware of such funding by participating in energy programs like the California Solar Initiative, or Rural Energy For America Program. For residential communities, there are programs to help integrate clean energy into homes and other properties. We have shared more information here.
I’m a farmer and I don’t know where to start when considering implementing clean energy. Can you help me?
Of course! Around the farm, agriculturists can consider installing solar panels to help farming operations such as irrigation, lighting, and cooling. Farmers can also consider swapping their older equipment for more energy-efficient equipment such as LED lighting, energy-efficient pumps, and variable frequency drives (VFDs). They could also consider biogas production that can be produced by capturing and converting methane gas from organic waste. This biogas can be used to generate electricity or heat around the farm. Biogas may be more attainable at the farm or rural land level than sources like nuclear energy. Nuclear energy may find a better home coming from the government or private energy company-sanctioned sites. Having mini systems inside the borders of California could limit the amount of power imported from out of state.
It is important to get educated about hybrid systems, smart gages, and clean/renewable energy sources. Hybrid systems utilizing multiple sources, such as wind and solar, can help mitigate the issue of energy harvesting in variable weather conditions, especially when combined with battery storage. Battery storage can also help to create energy independence during weather fluctuations such as with no wind or sunlight available or high demand causing surges and blackouts. Creating a strong microgrid at your farm with your hybrid system will in turn relieve the larger grid stress. One article shows that US energy storage needs national standards and regulations to thrive in the clean energy transition. On the farm, energy storage can be in hydroelectric storage, direct solar or wind battery storage, or even flywheels. The best option for a farm will depend on the local climate, the type and amount of energy needed, and the source and amount of energy it is capable of producing. For example, a hydroelectric system could pump water up a hill when energy production is high, then release it down the hill when energy demand is high to supplement the needs of the farm.
Run like the wind.. to use wind energy!
As we mentioned before, wind energy is one of the renewable sources that keeps growing in the clean energy sector. Specifically, offshore wind energy is mobilizing in many states, and in other parts of the world wind energy is helping meet high clean energy goals. We're sure many Californians have driven statewide and noticed the higher presence of wind turbines in key locations like Altamont, East San Diego County, Pacheco, Solano, San Gorgonio, and Tehachapi.
“Wind energy, an integral part of California's electricity portfolio, is needed to help meet the state's Renewables Portfolio Standard, which requires utilities to procure 50 percent of retail sales from renewable sources by 2020 and 60 percent by 2030. Wind projects extend from Imperial County in the south to Shasta County in the north.” - California Energy Commission (CEC)
What about the monetary “knead” for California to deliver on these wind projects?
We thought you would never ask. According to the California Energy Commission, the “cost of producing wind energy has decreased nearly fourfold since 1980, according to the Electric Power Research Institute,” and “modern wind turbines are 30 times larger in size and capacity than older turbines, and technological advances have made wind energy a cost-competitive and grid-friendly source of electricity.” (CEC Source) But what does that mean for areas with low wind-turbine presence? In California, we produce over 400 diverse commodities with our unique microclimates scattered throughout the state, however, there are larger climate pressures that come from years of drought, years of floods, rising temperatures, and overall access to resources. Research studies have shown that collecting data on clean energy can actually help California farms save water. The Central Valley could greatly benefit from wind energy by providing communities with access to clean and reliable energy despite chaotic weather events and can play a role in making the world a better place all while reducing energy costs, and increasing their energy independence.
Innovation is STRONG in the Central Valley!
On April 21, 2023, the Water, Energy, and Technology Center held our inaugural Destination Decarbonization Challenge Pitch Day! Congratulations to our first, second, and third-place teams on their amazing projects and presentations. We had a full house! Not to mention amazing participation from judges, community members, and beyond. Congratulations to ALL of our finalists! The Destination Decarbonization Challenge would not be possible without you, and each of your presentations/projects boldly and uniquely addressed the challenges surrounding carbon emissions and clean energy. Keep up the innovation - our world needs it!
"This year’s projects and presentations were phenomenal, and I am very proud of all of our finalists,” said Community Engagement and Outreach Specialist, Samuel Fairbanks. “The level of interest in decarbonization issues that affect our local communities, in addition to the solutions these students came up with in their teams, were all unique and equally promising in addressing carbon emissions issues we see here in the Central Valley. The future of decarbonization looks hopeful, and we hope to host the challenge again next year to keep the momentum going.”
A total of eight finalists completed each of the deadlines throughout the challenge timeline, which included abstracts, mentor hours, and final solution reports compiled by each of the teams and their respective team members. The Destination Decarbonization Pitch Day on April 21, 2023, was the concluding step for the finalists, where they pitched their completed projects to a panel of judges. First-place ($6,000), second-place ($4,000), and third-place ($2,500) winners were announced at the event after team presentations. You can learn more about the finalists, including the winners by visiting https://www.wetcenter.org/destination-decarbonization-challenge.
Interested in partnering with the WET Center for the 2nd Annual Destination Decarbonization Challenge? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
View the full press release here.
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