A recent study highlighting the renewable energy capacity of the eastern power grid found adding new transmission capacity can help further cut costs and emissions. In a recent report, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) found the grid serving the eastern half of the U.S. is technically capable of integrating enough wind and solar power into the system to meet 30 percent of the region's yearly energy needs. But one major obstacle to the large-scale use of renewables remains: getting the best wind resource from the Midwest to the East, where the power is needed.
In its continuing effort to settle the shaky ground, a divided Kansas Corporation Commission on Tuesday expanded restrictions on underground injection of oilfield wastewater linked to the spate of earthquakes over the past four years. The new rules put stricter limits on the volume of wastewater that can be dumped down disposal wells around the most seismically sensitive areas of Harper and Sumner counties. Tuesday’s order also expands the area where underground disposal is restricted. Reduced injection rates are being credited with a reduction in the magnitude and frequency of human-perceptible quakes on the Kansas side of the Oklahoma border. Most of the quakes now being felt in the Wichita area are originating in Oklahoma.
In the highly public race among states trying to get the most electricity from clean and renewable sources, it’s not surprising who’s making the most noise. Hawaii—environmentally sensitive islands without access to fossil fuels—has been the most aggressive,passing a law last year that will require its utilities to get 100 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2045. Liberal coastal bastions led by charismatic governors aren’t far behind. In 2015 California passed a law requiring 50 percent renewables by 2030. And New York, where Gov. Andrew Cuomo has pushed hard for green initiatives, said last month that it would aim to get to 50 percent by 2030. These goals, while laudable, are distant. Meanwhile, as is often the case, the most impressive work is happening more quietly in the middle of the country, by state bureaucrats and softer-spoken utility executives. One of the states that’s had the most success getting the most electricity from renewable sources is neither an island nor a coastal liberal bastion. It’s Iowa. Iowa has been one of the epicenters of America’s long-running wind boom. In 2008, about 4 percent of Iowa’s electricity generation came from wind. But so many wind farms have been built in the state that in 2015, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, “wind provided 31.3% of Iowa’s total electricity generation in 2015, a larger share than any other state.
Canadian pipeline operator Enbridge Inc.’s Enbridge Energy Partners LP is calling off for now plans for a 616-mile pipeline that was intended to carry crude oil from North Dakota to Wisconsin, citing the recent drop in oil prices. Houston-based Enbridge Energy Partners said it had determined it doesn’t need the additional pipeline capacity and, therefore, was putting the $2.6 billion Sandpiper project on hold until oil production in North Dakota “recovers sufficiently to support development of new pipeline capacity,” which, it said, won’t happen within its current five-year plan based on current projections.
In Finland, St1 is preparing to deliver the first Cellunolix® ethanol plant using forest industry residues as feedstock to North European Bio Tech. The project is under construction in Kajaani and is expected to come online before the end of 2016. Recently a letter of intent was signed for a similar facility in in Follum, Norway. In its H1 2016 financial reporting, the company said net sales were up by a half million euros over the same period in 2015.
This month in Finland, a team of intrepid researchers herded one thousand European cows one-by-one into a glass “metabolic chamber” to measure their methane emissions, digestion, production characteristics, energy-efficiency, metabolism, and the microbial make-up of their rumens. The Project is known as RuminOmics, but if it had been titled The Truman Show II: When the Cows Come Home, we wouldn’t have been a bit surprised. The ultimate aim of the study was to find an optimal, low-emission, high-yield cow, and the team noted in its premise that of all greenhouse gases produced by humans, five percent comes from cattle. The study identified areas in the cow’s genotype, the variation of which was linked to the amount of methane produced per kilo of milk produced. So, can a Super Low-Carb cow be identified and can this genotype be bred for.
Jim Matheson, a Democrat who was elected to seven terms in the U.S. House from a reliably Republican district in Utah, knows something about what it takes to work across party lines and buck political headwinds. He'll need that experience in his new job as CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, which argues that the Obama administration's climate regulations will drive up consumer costs and put some of its many coal-dependent co-ops out of business. President Obama's Clean Power Plan is the cornerstone of the U.S. pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the Paris accord. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has pledged to implement the regulations if she's elected, and has called for taking additional steps to reduce carbon emissions. Donald Trump opposes the regulations. For now, the Supreme Court has put a hold on the plan while lower courts consider a lawsuit in which NRECA is a lead plaintiff. But if the courts eventually allow the rules to take effect, the threat to co-ops is so serious that NRECA may have to go to Congress, or to the next administration, to seek some form of relief, Matheson says.
In recent months we’ve posted a number of times on the “U.S. Model” of domestic energy and economic growth – coupled with greenhouse gas reductions. Let that sink in: The United States is simultaneously the world’s No. 1 producer of oil and natural gas and the world leader in reducing emissions. Energy growth and climate progress together. That’s the U.S. Model. It’s important to grasp the impacts of the U.S. model – and also how it came about. These surges in home-grown oil and gas production are making the United States stronger economically and more secure in the world, reducing our dependence on others for the fuels that run our economy and support our standard of living.
Some are calling recent clean-energy actions by New York, Massachusetts and Iowa “game-changers.” That might very well prove true in the medium-term. But we can say with confidence that they are immediate game-advancers. Why? Energy markets are affected by policy, but they are driven by price. The underlying business reality is that the real cost of wind power has dropped below that of new fossil-fuel generation. And it’s making wind and renewables a no-brainer choice for major corporations, utilities and power producers of almost every stripe. Today, states are at the epicenter of America’s renewable energy revolution. And, because we have 50 state energy markets, big positive advances in state policy can accelerate the pace of this historic shift.
The Iowa Utilities Board approved MidAmerican Energy’s $3.6 billion plan to build up to 2,000 megawatts of wind power -- a major step toward realizing the company’s goal of supplying Iowa customers with 100 percent renewable energy at no additional cost. The "Wind XI" project is the largest wind energy project approved in the U.S. to date, and may be just the first in a series of mega wind projects to advance in the coming months. With last week’s approval notice, MidAmerican said it is now finalizing plans to begin construction of the 1,000 wind turbines. Wind XI will consist of multiple project sites across Iowa that will be placed into service over a three-year period, from 2017 through 2019. Upon completion of the project, renewable energy will support 85 percent of MidAmerican’s annual customer sales in Iowa.