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California to rely on 100% clean electricity by 2045

The Los Angeles Times | Posted on September 13, 2018

All of California’s electricity will come from clean power sources by 2045 under legislation signed by Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday, the latest in a series of ambitious goals set by the state to combat the effects of climate change.Brown hailed the move as another example of the state’s global leadership on environmental initiatives as the Trump administration backs away from such policies. The bill’s signing comes just days before Brown is set to host a global conference on climate change in San Francisco, a final effort to showcase California’s actions on the environment before he ends his fourth and final term as governor in January.

Northern U.S. states lead the way with community solar projects

Axios | Posted on September 13, 2018

1,023 megawatts of community solar have been installed in the U.S. as of Q1 2018, according to a recent report, enough to power roughly 150,000–200,000 homes. Massachusetts, New York, Minnesota and Colorado are leading the way in providing community solar resources for their communities. The details: Community solar refers to both community-owned solar installations and third-party-owned installations that allow anyone in the area to access the energy and , in some cases, obtain energy credits toward their electric bills. People who cannot afford solar installations or do not own the necessary real estate (renters, homeowners with shady rooftops, etc.) can participate and request clean energy through local utilities if community projects are available nearby. Several subscription models exist, from buying a share of panels in a solar farm to simply tapping into the power generated.Colorado installed the first community solar program in 2011 and has expanded to include and involve low-income communities. The Coyote Ridge Community Solar Farm, located in Fort Collins, will have 1.95 megawatts of solar capacity when finished and will be the largest low-income installation in the U.S. Minnesota leads the way with 401 megawatts of community solar capacity, the most of any state, however most participants are commercial clients.In the northeast, Massachusetts and New York both have strong community solar for residential customers.

Plant would convert Kansas wheat straw to natural gas. Why do some oppose it?

The Wichita Eagle | Posted on September 13, 2018

A renewable-energy company wants to invest more than $100 million in a biofuel plant in Kansas that it estimates would create 225 jobs and generate $3.5 million a year for area farmers. But some Sumner County farmers and others in the area are concerned about what the plant could mean for their water supply. The VNA Corp.’s proposed plant would turn water and baled crop residue — such as wheat straw and corn leaves, stalks and cobs— into natural gas. The plant would need 50 million gallons a year of water and more than 75,000 metric tons of straw and stover — a common name for corn leaves, stalks and cobs — for its first phase of operation. The plant would not produce ethanol, cellulosic ethanol or bio-diesel. It would create bio-methane — or renewable natural gas — through anaerobic digestion.

Wind and solar farms can make their own weather, including extra rain over the Sahara

The Los Angeles Times | Posted on September 13, 2018

Scientists say these renewable forms of energy can change the climate more directly — and do it in ways that might surprise you.If wind turbines and solar panels were deployed across the Sahara, more rain would fall and more plants would grow in the massive African desert, according to researchpublished in Friday’s edition of the journal Science.In the case of wind farms, the giant turbines would cause warmer air from above to mix with cooler air below, bringing more heat close to the surface. Air temperatures near the ground would increase by nearly 4 degrees Fahrenheit.In addition, the turbines would interrupt the smoothness of the desert surface. Winds blowing through the area would move more slowly.That, combined with the added heat, would change the atmospheric conditions over the Sahara and bring more moisture to the area. Average rainfall would increase by up to 0.25 of a millimeter per day — about double what it would have been otherwise, according to the study.The additional water would fuel plant growth, and those extra plants would reduce the amount of sunlight that’s reflected off the desert surface.From there, it’s a positive feedback loop, the researchers explained: The reduced reflectivity enhances precipitation, which fuels plant growth, which reduces albedo, and so on.

USDA decision ends request to halt mineral leases

Business North | Posted on September 11, 2018

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has re-opened the door to mineral exploration in the Rainy River Watershed, allowing companies to lease minerals in the Superior National Forest. USDA’s decision received a warm welcome from mining supporters, who have worried the obstacle would stifle Iron Range economic growth. Environmentalists said it will harm the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.“Today’s announcement from the U.S. Department of Agriculture is the right decision for Minnesota’s future and validates the existing environmental review process – which states the proper time to evaluate potential impacts of mining projects is after they have been proposed,” Jobs for Minnesotans said in a news release.  “This mineral withdrawal would have protected the Rainy River watershed and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness from the threat of sulfide mining. Along with impacting the hundreds of thousands of individuals who visit the Boundary Waters each year, this decision will hurt the thousands of people whose livelihoods and economic wellbeing has been built on a thriving outdoor recreation economy in the region,” countered Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness.

From pigs to prairie grass: Missouri company seeks new biogas feedstock

U.S. Energy News | Posted on September 11, 2018

A St. Louis alternative energy company has started the second phase of an ambitious biogas project in northern Missouri that aims to turn prairie plants from marginal farmland into renewable natural gas. Roeslein Alternative Energy, in a partnership with Smithfield Foods and a group of Midwest universities, has begun converting the first of a thousand acres of lower quality farmland to prairie grasses.If the company can find a solution that is both technically and financially viable, it could provide broad environmental benefits as well as new income for farmers. But getting there will require building from scratch a whole new system for planting, harvesting, transporting and converting the feedstock.Founder Rudi Roeslein originally approached pork producer Smithfield Foods with a proposal to cover and capture methane from 88 waste lagoons at the corporation’s nine hog facilities in northern Missouri.

Sickened Kingston coal ash workers left with faulty, manipulated test results

Knox News | Posted on September 6, 2018

More than 50 coal ash spill cleanup workers and workers' survivors are suiing Jacobs Engineering for unsafe working conditions that they allege lead to sickness and death at the cleanup site. When the Environmental Protection Agency arrived on the scene of the nation’s largest coal ash spill, the agency was worried about the hundreds of blue-collar laborers already toiling in the toxic stuff without protection, newly reviewed records show.EPA independent testing of the 5.4 million cubic yards of coal ash that had spilled from a dike at the TVA Kingston Fossil Fuel Power Plant in Roane County in December 2008 was showing alarming levels of radium and arsenic, records show.Independent researchers from institutions such as Duke University and Wake Forest University also were finding high concentrations of arsenic and radium.

Arizona Supreme Court rules 50% renewables initiative will appear on ballot

Utility Dive | Posted on September 6, 2018

Arizona voters will consider a 50% renewable energy standard when they head to the polls in November following a decision from the state's Supreme Court last week.Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona (CEHA) submitted 480,000 signatures in support of the ballot initiative, far more than the required 225,000 signatures. A utility-backed group opposing the effort challenged the validity of the signatures, but lost in both Maricopa County Superior Court and the state's highest court last week. The group opposed to the ballot initiative, Arizonans for Affordable Energy (AAE), is supported by the state's largest utility, Arizona Public Service. Officials say they will now shift focus away from challenging the initiative to swaying customers to vote "no" on Proposition 127. 

Illinois community solar garden sprouts sun-tracking “smartflower”

Energy News Network | Posted on September 6, 2018

One of the first community solar systems in Illinois won’t be a run-of-the-mill array of PV panels. The Renaissance Collaborative (TRC), an affordable housing complex on Chicago’s South Side, is the site of a dense new solar array that will fan out in the shape of a flower to maximize generation.Known as a “smartflower,” the system is designed to open in the morning and generate power as it mechanically tracks the sun throughout the day. The compact design makes it ideal for a dense city neighborhood, in this case, in a vegetable garden behind TRC’s building.

Exxon reasserts its methane position as EPA preps rollback

Axios | Posted on September 6, 2018

ExxonMobil is reasserting its self-imposed commitment to cut emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas that’s the primary component of natural gas, as the Environmental Protection Agency prepares to repeal regulations. Why it matters: The comments, posted Tuesday by the CEO of XTO Energy, an Exxon subsidiary with large U.S. natural-gas operations, illustrate an awkward predicament facing industry under President Trump. Some of the biggest global companies are seeking to emphasize a social license to produce fossil fuels even as the Trump administration pursues aggressive regulatory rollbacks.