Photo Courtesy of The University of Maine

Wind-Tower Model Sets Sail

Aiming to put its wind generator where the breeze blows the strongest, researchers at the University of Maine on May 31 launched VolturnUS 1:8, a scale-model wind turbine designed to convert to electricity offshore wind from the Gulf of Maine. The prototype, a 65-ft-tall tower supported by three hollow concrete tubes, is designed to a 1:8 scale and has 20 kilowatts of capacity; successful trials will lead to a 300-ft-tall full-scale turbine capable of generating 6 MW, which would be fed to the onshore grid by 2016 ( 5/17). The scale model was designed and fabricated in the University of Maine's Advanced Structures and Composites Center. It is the first of seven U.S. Dept. of Energy maritime wind projects to begin testing under a $128-million program. The VolturnUS project is the world's first concrete-composite floating-platform wind turbine, says DOE, adding that wind off the U.S. coast represents more than 4,000 GW of untapped power.

Xcel Energy Plans 550-MW Addition of Wind Energy to Grid

Minneapolis-based power provider Xcel Energy will add 550 MW of wind power to its system by 2016, not out of environmental concerns but because the current cost of wind power is so low. Power costs at Xcel's newest plant—the Limon, Colo.-based NextEra wind farm, which came on line last year—are $27.50 per megawatt-hour, the company says. Xcel's average cost to buy wind power since 2007 is around $42 per MW/hour, compared to the $68.60-per-MW/hour cost from natural-gas plants, according to a study from the Energy Information Administration. After Xcel adds the 550 MW of new capacity, more than 30% of all its energy in Colorado will come from wind power. The company is already the No. 1 wind-energy provider in the U.S.

PCA Forecast Strong Growth In Cement Consumption in 2013

Following the strongest cement consumption gains in seven years in 2012, cement consumption growth will continue in 2013 with a 6.2% increase, according to the latest forecast from the Portland Cement Association, Skokie, Ill. PCA predicts the majority of market recovery will occur in the second half of 2013. The accelerated consumption predicted during the second half of 2013 should carry into the following year. PCA projects an increase of 9.2% for 2014. "Although non-residential and residential will be in full recovery in 2013, public construction will act as a drag on cement consumption this year," says Ed Sullivan, PCA's chief economist. "However, as the economy gains momentum in 2014, job gains will strengthen states' fiscal conditions and support stronger construction spending."

Amtrak Gets Sandy Funds To Study N.Y.-N.J. Tunnels

Amtrak will receive $185 million from Superstorm Sandy federal relief funds to advance work on two flood-resistant rail tunnels beneath the Hudson River that connect New Jersey to Penn Station in Manhattan. The funds will help construct an 800-ft-long concrete casement between 10th and 11th avenues under the Hudson Yards next to Penn Station.

Brazil Issues New Rules for Upcoming Wind-Power Auctions

Brazil's wind-only auctions are taking off. According to the Global Wind Energy Council, the Brazilian government has created a separate auction for only wind-power operators, restricting participation to farms that can connect to existing transmission lines. The next auction is expected in August. The country's goal is to generate 16 GW of wind power by 2021, or about 9% of its total energy consumption.