Brad Allamong understands the concerns about a proposed $100 million wind farm to be built near Crossville. He has heard directly from some who fear the project's impact on the community. But Allamong is urging everyone not to jump to conclusions until they get a full understanding of the project's pros and cons.
"I don't know at this point whether or not a greater calm should prevail so the facts of the project could be understood," said Allamong, president and CEO of the Crossville-Cumberland County Chamber of Commerce. The Crab Orchard Wind Project, to be built across 1,800 acres atop the Cumberland Plateau, has come under fire from residents who are worried that it would destroy the beauty of the scenic mountain landscape. U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander and U.S. Rep. Diane Black recently added their voices to the chorus of opposition.
Consumer investments in distributed energy resources can save all ratepayers money by avoiding expensive grid infrastructure upgrades. Solar advocates have long been making this argument in regulatory proceedings around the country. Today, that vision is becoming a reality.
In late March, the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) approved its 2015-2016 Transmission Plan, which calls for canceling 13 transmission projects planned in Pacific Gas & Electric territory. The low-voltage transmission projects were deemed no longer necessary in light of materially lower load forecast levels since the projects were approved several years ago.
In many parts of the country, areas that are now full of houses and schools and shopping centers were once oil and gas fields. You wouldn't know it by looking, but hidden underground, there are millions of abandoned wells. New development happening on top of those old wells can create a dangerous situation. In most states, there is no requirement for homeowners to be notified about abandoned oil and gas wells on their properties. In the Canadian province of Alberta, it's a different story. Theresa Watson, an engineering consultant and former Alberta energy regulator, started pushing for better tracking, monitoring and regulation of abandoned wells back in the early 2000s. That was when people started to move into rural areas that were once oil and gas fields. Alberta now has a 15-foot no-build zone around abandoned wells. Similar rules are lacking in most of the U.S., even as new development is encroaching on old oil and gas fields in places like the Front Range of Colorado.
A Butler County judge has dismissed the second lawsuit a developer and 13 landowners had filed against Middlesex residents and non-profits opposed to fracking, the defendants. Dewey Homes & Investment Properties and other property owners, who collectively hold more than 440 acres of land, originally filed the lawsuit last May against five residents, the Delaware Riverkeeper Network and the Clean Air Council. Dewey and the landowners said the defendants were interfering with their rights to drill by challenging the township's zoning ordinances, which allow gas drilling in 90 percent of the township. The ACLU called the lawsuit a case of “SLAPP,” or strategic lawsuit against public participation, intended to quash the residents' right to petition their government.
Butler County Common Pleas Judge Marilyn Horan dismissed the lawsuit in September but allowed the plaintiffs to amend it. Last Wednesday Judge Michael Yeager dismissed the amended case with prejudice, meaning it can't be re-filed with the Court of Common Pleas.
The first comprehensive study of the content of rare earth elements in coal ashes from the United States shows that coal originating from the Appalachian Mountains has the highest concentrations of scarce elements like neodymium, europium, terbium, dysprosium, yttrium and erbium that are needed for alternative energy and other technologies. The study also reveals how important developing inexpensive, efficient extraction technologies will be to any future recovery program.
Residential solar in the U.S. grew 66 percent in 2015 over 2014, the largest annual growth rate to date, according to a recent report by GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association, or SEIA. In 2015, residential solar installations amounted to 2,099 megawatts, which, when converted, equals more that 1,600 megawatts. By comparison, Montana's coal-fired Colstrip plant, the second-largest power plant west of the Mississippi River, has a peak output of 2,100 megawatts. The International Renewable Energy Agency reports that between 2010 and 2015 the cost of solar photovoltaic panels dropped 80 percent, fueling the solar surge around the world.
Forty-one states and the District of Columbia have mandatory net-metering rules, but the rapid growth in residential solar has states from New York to Montana wrestling with how to promote this renewable, distributed resource in a way that placates utilities challenged by integrating the power and apportioning the associated costs. Nevada, for example, the fifth-largest residential solar market in 2015 with 17,000 producers, recently implemented drastic changes to its net-metering policy that the Alliance for Solar Choice, in challenging the decision in court, called "a stake in the heart of future rooftop solar development." The crux of the debate is how much net-metered customers should be credited for putting excess energy onto the grid. Utilities and renewable energy advocates clash on cost-benefit analyses.
California's ambitious efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are taking a hit as demand has plummeted for pollution credits that are supposed to fund the initiative. Only about a tenth of the available pollution credits were sold in an auction last week, according to results released Wednesday by the California Air Resources Board. Gov. Jerry Brown's administration says revenue from the program was $600 million short of the $2.4 billion anticipated in the current fiscal year.
Washington state regulators unveiled an updated plan to limit greenhouse gas emissions from large polluters, the latest attempt by Gov. Jay Inslee to push ahead with a binding cap on carbon emissions after struggling to win approval from legislators. Washington would join nearly a dozen states including California that have capped carbon pollution from industrial sources. The proposed rule requires large industrial emitters to gradually reduce carbon emissions over time. The rule would cover many industries, including power plants, oil refineries, fuel distributors, pulp and paper mills and others.
For seven Midwest states - Michigan, Minnesota, Insiana, Illinois Ioa, Ohio and Wisconsin – between 50 percent (Indiana) and 79 percent (Minnesota) of the projected energy mix could come from a combination of onshore and offshore wind. The remaining supply would mostly comprise utility-scale, commercial, residential and concentrated solar, with a small percentage from hydroelectric sources under the projected energy mixes. Wind and solar could meet all of Indiana’s and Illinois’ energy needs; 99.9 percent of Ohio’s; 99.8 percent of Iowa’s; 99 percent of Wisconsin’s; 98.3 percent of Michigan’s; and 96.4 percent of Minnesota’s. The projections apply to all energy sectors — not just electric — to include transportation and heating and cooling. Additionally, each of those states’ power demand would decrease on average about 35 percent, according to Jacobson. “The idea is to electrify everything,” Jacobson said. For Michigan alone, “the benefit of all this is we calculate it would create about 50,000 net jobs, eliminate 1,700 air pollution deaths and about $1,300 per person, per year in health costs.”
Americans may be divided on partisan and ideological lines, but on at least one issue they agree: Support for clean renewable energy just keeps growing. In a March 2015 Gallup Poll, for example, 79 percent said they wanted the nation to use more solar energy, while 70 percent wanted to see more of the energy we use come from wind. As promising as this trend seems to be, however, it is a quantum leap to move from 100 percent renewable electricity to 100 percent renewable energy. Electricity represents only about 40 percent of the energy landscape and is mainly used to power our lighting, air conditioning, mechanical systems, computers and telecommunications equipment. The remaining 60 percent, sourced chiefly from oil and natural gas, powers most of the transportation sector (cars, trains, planes) as well as most commercial and residential heating. As daunting as the shift may seem, however, the technology to make it possible is commercially available today.