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Billionaire Moguls Fighting for and Against Renewable Energy

Two of the most recognizable wealthy businessmen in the Western World appear to have very different opinions on the viability of renewable energy.

On the one hand is Richard Branson, UK billionaire mogul and founder of the Carbon War Room, which has just launched an RFP for a renewable energy project in the British Virgin Islands. The stated goals of the RFP for Branson's home of Necker Island are to "reduce and/or eliminate the use of fossil fuels for electricity," with "systems that provide savings and reduce costs on the island." This project follows up on a pledge issued at last summer's Rio+20 United Nations Conference to help 10 island nations around the world reduce their dependence on fossil fuels by 2020. (Necker Island doesn't count in that effort, but rather would be a centerpiece of inspiration for other islands to implement renewable energy, according to Reznick Think Energy, one of the partners in the project.)

The RFP for Necker Island involves two phases of bids. The first encompasses a 750 kilowatt solar PV project in an open field, plus 8 kW of PV on the "Great House" and two solar carports capable of electrical vehicle charging. A second phase of bids will target a 100-350 kW wind turbine system, a "comprehensive smart grid system" with "significant load controls and batteries," and energy supply and management services.

Once nondisclosure agreements are signed (and up-front fees are paid), RFP respondents will be able to tour the site in March; proposals are due in early April, with winning bidders announced in May and contracts signed by mid-June. As an incentive for smaller vendors, they'd get a 30% discount on the up-front fees, which range up to $5000 for the entire RFP.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the renewable energy table is the inimitable Donald Trump, long a wind-power critic, who continues to fight a proposed offshore wind farm off the coast near his Scottish golf course resort. An exec in charge of the mogul's property development project reignited tensions this week, confirming that they will pursue lengthy appeals against the European Offshore Wind Deployment Center's proposed £230 million project, which is currently under consideration by government officials.

"We will be able to prevent construction," stated George Sorial, indicating that appeals could extend all the way to London. "We are confident they will never be built."

Trump Golf Scotland opened last summer, and its owners recently filed plans to build a second course on the 1400-acre estate at Balmedie, north of Aberdeen Bay where the proposed wind turbine project would be located.

Despite the bluster from such onshore critics, Scotland is pressing ahead with its adoption of wind power. The nation handily beat its 35 percent target for renewable energy installed capacity in 2011, and has a new goal of 50 percent by 2015.

Lead image: Businessman thumbs up and thumbs down, via Shutterstock

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