The cost of renewables is plunging faster than forecasters anticipated just a few years ago as as technologies like gigantic wind turbines arrive on the market. That’s the conclusion of Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), whose founder Michael Liebreich estimated that clean energy will reap 86 percent of the $10.2 trillion likely to be invested in power generation by 2040.In a presentation to the research group’s conference in London on Tuesday, Liebreich said technology that’s slashing the costs of wind and solar farms makes it inevitable that clean energy will become more economical than fossil fuels for utilities in many places. The most visible advance is in the scale of wind turbines. “The first is when new wind and solar become cheaper than anything else,” Liebreich said. The slide below from his presentation indicates that in Japan by 2025 it will be cheaper to build a new PV plant than a coal-fired power generator. That milestone will be passed in India for wind power by 2030.
Illinois has invested billions in electricity grid infrastructure, and now ranks 2nd nationally on grid modernization, but are these bulky efforts actually paying off nearly six years into the state’s initiative? State utilities have markedly improved reliability and operational efficiency through innovative smart grid technologies, but Illinois’ ambitious goal of adding more than 4 gigawatts (GW) of new wind and solar requires more than a modern grid - it requires more flexibility from customers.Fortunately, realistic policy solutions are within reach. By removing market barriers to expand “real-time” power pricing options and maximize the benefits of smart meter investments, Illinois citizens could save billions and create a flexible grid capable of handling a massive expected influx of renewable energy by 2030.
Throughout 2017, Wisconsinites kept hearing an old argument: jobs versus the environment. We must choose, we are told, between a healthy environment and a strong economy. Nonsense.In fact, during this age of global warming, one of the best ways to build a robust economy is to protect the environment and promote clean energy. And ignoring the effects of climate change hurts our economy. According to the group Clean Jobs Midwest, Wisconsin ranks dead last among Midwestern states in its percentage of clean-energy jobs — 0.85 percent, compared to an average of 1.8 percent. If Wisconsin had just the average rate of Midwestern states, we would have around 30,000 more jobs.These clean-energy jobs do not depend on handing taxpayer money to foreign corporations. They do not involve sacrificing environmental protections. They would be situated throughout the state and could not be outsourced. And, all the while, they would help protect our economy from the increasing ravages of global warming.
The Midland County Board of Commissioners had the opportunity this week to receive unbiased information regarding wind turbines. At its regularly scheduled meeting, the board welcomed Sarah Mills, who presented the "Pros and Cons of Wind farms." Funded by the C.S. Mott Foundation, Mills conducted a 2016 survey "on the public acceptance of wind turbines in the communities surrounding 10 of Michigan's utility-scale farms." Those wind farms were located on the Garden Peninsula in Delta County of the Upper Peninsula; two were around the city of McBain; and the remaining seven were located in Huron County. The survey was an expansion of Mills' original 2014 pilot study of farmland owners in these communities."In the course of the survey, I surveyed a lot of township board members, and planning commission members. They told me it is very hard to get non-biased information. You can get one side or the other, but not both," Mills said. The article repors the opinions of people in the region.
Grants for solar energy manufacturing and arrays are being offered again in Pennsylvania. The Wolf administration announced this week that it had added back grants to the Solar Energy Program, which is designed to help finance solar energy projects and manufacturing in the state. The program is an initiative of the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the Commonwealth Financing Authority. The program will now allow for grants of up to $5,000 or loans of up to $40,000 for each solar-manufacturing job created over three years for companies that make solar panels and equipment. It would also provide loans for companies that install solar energy projects for their own use. The funding is available to businesses, economic development organizations, cities, counties or school districts.
Using wood pellets for home heating fuel reduces greenhouse gas emissions by more than half over fossil fuels and natural gas, according to new research from the NH Agricultural Experiment Station at the University of New Hampshire. “Wood pellet heat is a new and growing heating alternative in the U.S. and has been proposed as a climate-beneficial energy source to replace fossil fuels. However, little work has been done to assess this claim,” the researchers said. “The opportunity for switching to wood pellet heat is particularly great for the Northern Forest region of northern Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York, which is home to more than two million people who live in rural communities, larger towns, and small cities surrounded by the largest intact forest in the eastern United States.”
A new University of Wisconsin-Madison study says cropland expansion in the United States as a result of the Renewable Fuel Standard, led to expanded carbon emissions from 2008 to 2012, resulting in about 115 million tons of releases. The study points the finger at the expansion of biofuels production leading to an expansion of cropland between 2008 and 2012, as the driver behind those emissions."Consequently, emissions from clearing land to accommodate biofuel production could significantly undermine the carbon savings that biofuels seek to attain
In September 2017, the Chinese government announced a new nationwide ethanol mandate (NEA 2017) that expands the mandatory use of E10 fuel (gasoline containing 10 percent ethanol) from 11 trial provinces to the entire country by 2020. This measure would require ethanol consumption in China, the largest motor vehicle market in the world, to at least quadruple within the next three years. For US producers, this recent development fuels interest in whether China is going to import ethanol and/or corn (the main feedstock for ethanol production in China) to meet the mandate.
US oil production has skyrocketed since 2007. Technological advances in oil and gas drilling (commonly referred to as ‘fracking’) have allowed producers to access vast petroleum reserves that were previously too costly to recover. The growth in oil and gas production from unconventional sources has been tremendous, so that unconventional sources now make up more than 50 percent of total US petroleum production (EIA 2015). While this represents a boost to job growth and the broader economy, growth in the oil industry comes with its fair share of problems. Academics and news agencies have documented a host of costs associated with new oil and gas production— groundwater pollution, oil spills, large “man camps” and increased crime, and even increases in traffic accidents and exploding train cars. Some of these costs were seen in Iowa with the contentious nature of right-of-way issues associated with building out the Dakota Access pipeline across the state. Farmers and environmentalists alike are bound together in their concern for right-of-way, human rights concerns, and environmental issues.
The clean energy projects recently approved by Mexico will be online and selling power by 2020. These projects and others are important steps towards meeting Mexico’s goals under the Paris agreement as well as regional goals established by Mexico, the United States, and Canada. In 2016, all three countries pledged to source 50 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2025. Canada is on track to meet this goal while Mexico continues to build up its renewable portfolio. As it was when the regional pledge was made, the United States still lags behind in its transition to clean energy.