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2016 U.S. Clean Tech Leadership Index

Cleanedge | Posted on June 2, 2016

See how your state ranks! The U.S. Clean Tech Leadership Index tracks and ranks the clean-tech activities of all 50 states and the 50 largest metro areas in the U.S. – from EV (electric vehicles) and renewables adoption to policy and investment activity.  The objective of the Leadership Index is to serve as a tool for regional comparative research, a source for aggregated industry data, and a jumping-off point for deep, data-driven analysis of the U.S. clean-tech market.  

New Michigan policies make energy efficiency a priority

Crains Detroit Business | Posted on June 1, 2016

One long-standing program that provides a means by which an entity can get capital for energy efficiency projects is known as the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program. PACE allows local governments to issue bonds to property owners that finance energy retrofits at their facilities, which they and back over a period years. However, entities with significant building portfolios and energy intensive operations like local governments lacked a similar avenue to achieve the same savings – until now, that is.

The new legislation Gov. Snyder recently signed now allows cities, villages, governing bodies, townships and commissioners to finance energy conservation improvements. These improvements include heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) improvements, roof improvements, insulation, entrance or exit closure, software designed to promote energy conservation and municipal utility improvements.

The EPA's Proposed 2017 RFS Standards: Is a Push Still a Push?

Farm Doc Daily | Posted on June 1, 2016

The EPA released the preliminary 2017 RFS Standard on May 18. The preliminary rulemaking also established biomass-based diesel (BBD) volume requirements for 2018. Here, we first re-examine the magnitude of the likely conventional biofuels push contained in the final rule making for 2014-2016 and then the likely magnitude of the push in the preliminary rulemaking for 2017. Those calculations will indicate if the EPA is continuing the policy of providing a measurable push for conventional biofuel consumption beyond the E10 blend wall. That analysis requires a forecast of domestic gasoline consumption. Finally, we briefly examine the RINs market reaction to the preliminary rulemaking to judge if the rulemaking came as a surprise to the market. We start with a review of the statutory mandates before proceeding to the analysis. A key question is whether the 2017 standard continues the recent EPA policy of providing a measurable push for conventional biofuel consumption beyond the E10 blend wall. After updating projections for gasoline and diesel consumption, we estimate the conventional ethanol mandate gap to be 275 million gallons in 2014, 371 million gallons in 2015, 453 million gallons in 2016, and 510 million gallons in 2017. Since the estimates of the conventional mandate gap are relatively large, particularly for 2016 and 2017, this suggests the EPA is continuing to provide a substantial push above the E10 blend wall for conventional biofuels. A key question going forward is how long this push can last in the face of rising gasoline consumption.

Solar Power Net Metering Most Beneficial According to Study

Govtech | Posted on May 31, 2016

The Brookings Institution study determined net metering provided $36 million in benefits to all NV Energy customers, regardless of whether they were receiving net-metering credits. The paper largely concludes the benefits associated with net metering outweigh the costs and don’t pose significant cost increases for non-solar ratepayers. Net metering allows solar power users to send excess electricity back to the electric grid in return for rate credits.

Whatever Happened to Advanced Biofuels?

Scientific American | Posted on May 31, 2016

Cellulosic ethanol continues to struggle to use inedible crop waste to match ethanol from corn—and fossil fuels.  The Project Liberty plant is a multi–$100-million effort to get past the obstacles of food-versus-fuel debates, farmer recalcitrance and, ultimately, fossil fuels. It is also the fruition of a 16-year journey for founder and executive chairman Jeff Broin of ethanol-producing company POET.

Making ethanol from inedible parts of corn plants is perhaps better than using the edible starch in corn kernels that could find use as food or feed for animals. “We’re processing about 770 tons a day of corn stover—basically the leftovers from the cornfield—into ethanol,” Broin said.

Why This Power Company Is Making Energy From Pig Poo

Fortune | Posted on May 26, 2016

Power giant Duke Energy announced plans on Tuesday to buy gas generated by the waste from pigs on farms in North Carolina. The company will use the gas, made of methane, to generate electricity at two power stations.

Failed oil well near Wasta may put state in $2 million hole and could endanger water

Rapid City Journal | Posted on May 25, 2016

An attempt three years ago to drill an oil well 9,700 feet deep, through multiple water aquifers and a highly dense layer of pre-Cambrian rock near Wasta, ended very badly.And now the state of South Dakota may be on the hook for a $2 million repair and clean-up bill, and officials are worried over the failed well's impact on local fresh water supplies. The trouble began when a drill bit broke partway down after going through several aquifers. The bit and a long length of drill pipe are still in the hole at the well that is located about 45 miles east of Rapid City. Cement plugs to protect the aquifers from each other can’t be installed. The broken bit and pipe block the way.

Reassessing Local Wind Energy Standards

Center for Rural Affairs | Posted on May 25, 2016

Wind energy continues to be a growing industry in the United States. Several states are tapping this renewable resource for over 20% of their power needs. As growth continues, projects are breaking new ground. Developers are interacting with more communities and landowners in the process.  While landowners received at least $180 million in land lease payments (and that number could continue to grow to $1 billion annually by 2050), many still face challenges from the development of projects on their land. Many counties and municipalities are reassessing their  standards for zoning and siting requirements or developing them for the first time.  This report describes the typical elements in the construction process, and lays out potential problems landowners and communities might face. We review county regulations for commercial wind energy systems. Finally, we provide recommendations for future development of wind energy systems.

EPA finalizes rules to reduce methane leakage

High Country News | Posted on May 22, 2016

Last August, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed the first-ever rule targeting methane leaks from oil and gas infrastructure. Environmentalists lauded its potential to keep the greenhouse gas, which is 86 times more potent than carbon dioxide, out of the atmosphere. Yet the rule had flaws: It did not apply to existing wells and facilities, or to low-producing wells, and therefore did little to address methane plumes emanating from areas with a history of production, such as the hot spot over the Four Corners region. 
On May 12, the EPA finalized the rule, nixing the exemption for low-producing wells, increasing the frequency of leak detection and otherwise tightening up last year’s proposal. The new regulations should keep some 11 million tons of methane out of the air by 2025, and also lay the groundwork for extending regulation to existing wells and infrastructure.

What the West’s trees tell us

High COuntry News | Posted on May 20, 2016

How can biomass and carbon data help us mitigate the effects of human activity?  Every tree tells part of the story of Earth and its atmosphere, from the planet’s available carbon and oxygen to its soil and water health. Tree height and forest undergrowth help scientists study biodiversity and predict wildfires, while the location and density of growth are linked to hydrology and erosion in mountainous regions. Scientists have long studied these patterns, but until five years ago, there was no comprehensive way to keep track of them. Instead, scientific understanding was piecemeal and regional. In 2011, Wayne Walker and Josef Kellndorfer from the Woods Hole Research Center mapped every forest in the United States, along with its biomass and the carbon it stores, using satellite and ground data collected by the U.S. Forest Service, NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey from 1999 to 2002, to create a forest biomass map in more precise detail than any other made. The darker the spot, the denser, taller and more robust the forests are. Predictable trends emerge: The rich forests of the Pacific Northwest and Northern California are obvious, for example. But there were also surprising insights, like the grid-like patterns created by human development in other Western forests. The map is already helping public-lands agencies and academics study and manage forest restoration, but researchers are working to update it: Western forests are changing rapidly due to logging, climate change and tree disease. “It’s more valuable to understand how the forest is changing over time, in terms of ability to store carbon,” Walker says. For now, land managers rely on these pixelated swaths of green as their baseline for understanding our country’s forests and their future.