Recent State Initiatives Further The Development of Wind Energy
By Robert A.
Olson, Esq. and Becky Oleson-- Brown, Olson and Gould, P.C.
While Maryland and Pennsylvania attempt to make development of wind generation projects easier, Texas is trying to ensure that at least some of its renewable energy comes from sources other than wind.
Maryland Dispenses With Certificates of Public Convenience and for Wind
On April 9, 2007, the Maryland General Assembly approved Senate Bill 566, which allows wind-powered generating stations meeting certain criteria to bypass the requirement for a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity. In order to qualify, the facility must be 70 megawatts or less and land-based. The electricity must be sold on the wholesale market pursuant to an interconnection, operation and maintenance agreement with the local electric company. The Public Service Commission must hold public hearings in each county and municipal corporation in which any portion of the proposed wind project may be located. The Act does not limit the regulatory authority of any State or local agency with respect to siting of a wind generation facility - all relevant regulations and ordinances still apply.
The Act streamlines the approval process for qualifying wind-powered generating stations, helping Maryland achieve its Renewable Portfolio Standard goals for Tier 1 renewable sources. The state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard was enacted in 2004, and an annual requirement of 1.0% for Tier 1 sources went into effect in 2006. The state has set a requirement of 7.5% of its total electricity needs from Tier 1 sources by 2019.
Maryland’s Governor Martin O’Malley signed the Act into law on April 24. The Act will become effective on July 1, 2007 and will remain in effect for three years. It is set to expire on June 30, 2010.
Pennsylvania Initiative Focuses on Review of Effect on Wildlife
Pennsylvania’s Renewable Portfolio Standard was enacted in 2004, with compliance beginning in 2006. It requires that 18.5 % of electricity sold to retail customers come from renewable sources by 2020. Currently, Pennsylvania is home to at least seven wind-turbine sites, with another 60 sites being investigated for possible construction of wind turbines. Governor Edward G. Kendall convened The Pennsylvania Wind & Wildlife Collaborative to assist in the development of wind energy in an environmentally responsible manner. The Collaborative has facilitated voluntary agreements with twelve private companies to avoid, minimize and potentially mitigate any adverse impacts wind development may have on the state’s wildlife resources. Under the agreements, wind developers must notify the Game Commission at least 14 months in advance of construction to ensure that the Game Commission has sufficient time to conduct a review of the proposed development. The agreements establish site-specific procedures to measure pre- and post-construction wildlife activities and seasonal events, including site visitation and usage and migration. The agreements are designed to lead to a better understanding of each proposed site’s ecology, to promote teamwork between state agencies and developers, and to help streamline the permitting of wind development in the state.
Texas Legislature Asked to Clarify Its Mandate to Develop Non-Wind Generation
The Texas legislature is considering a bill that will clarify language in S.B. 20, its 2005 Renewable Portfolio Standard law. The 2005 Texas law established a “target” that at least 500 MW of renewable generation come from non-wind renewable sources by 2015. H.B 1214 answers the question of whether the 500 MW non-wind target in S.B. 20 was voluntary or mandatory. H.B. 1214 clarifies that installation of at least 500 MW of non-wind renewable generation by 2015 is mandatory. The Public Utilities Commission must establish the minimum annual requirement for the installation of non-wind generating capacity for each utility in the state, including retail providers, municipally owned utilities, and electric cooperatives. The bill was passed by the Texas House of Representatives on April 17, 2007, and is now being considered by the Senate Business and Commerce Committee. If passed, the bill will take effect on September 1, 2007.
As of December 31, 2006, Texas leads the U.S. in installed wind capacity, with 2,768 MW. Additionally, two of the three largest wind farms in the country are located in Texas. H.B. 1214 will support the development of other renewable resources contained in its Renewable Portfolio Standard, including solar, geothermal, hydroelectric, wave and biomass. Texas adopted its Renewable Portfolio Standard in 1999.