A solar advocate who found a way to create bulk-purchase discounts for home rooftop systems is growing it into a national movement to assert what she feels are the rights of system owners. What launched as the Community Power Network in 2007 in the Washington, DC, home of Anya Schoolman is expanding under a new name – Solar United Neighbors(SUN). The new organization is targeting, Florida, Pennsylvania and other states by year’s end, with a goal of establishing operations in at all 50 states by the end of 2018.
A national solar energy company is betting nearly $1 billion on an Oregon development spree, including five new solar farms in Marion and Polk counties.Cypress Creek Renewables, a developer that sells electricity to utility companies and already operates seven solar sites in Oregon, is building farms near Salem, Silverton, Gervais, Turner and Grand Ronde.Cypress Creek, which operates in 15 states, has its largest group of farms in North Carolina, where more than 100 are either operating or under construction, company officials say. The Marion and Polk county farms will cover about 12 acres each, producing enough energy to power some 450 homes. They should be churning out electricity by year's end or shortly afterward, company officials said. The farms will sell energy to Portland General Electric, which will send it to its utility ratepayers.
On a Tuesday morning in October, just before noon, the San Francisco port is bustling with life. Shoppers line up for late summer produce and specialty coffee at a farmer’s market in front of the iconic Ferry Building, and suited professionals settle on benches near the water to enjoy their lunches. It’s unlikely that many of these daytime revelers realize that they are just a few feet from the seawall: a critical barricade protecting San Francisco from the looming impacts of climate change, and an accessory in a lawsuit that’s demanding oil companies pay for these impacts. Executive Director of the San Francisco Port Elaine Forbes, who has just switched from high-heels to walking shoes for our stroll, points to the crowd. “There’s 24 million people that come and go, use the seawall, and have no idea that it’s that core infrastructure that makes for this beautiful place.” Forbes leads me around the Ferry Building, walking along the water towards the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge to show me what’s at stake. The six-foot-tall seawall, which sits just below the cement we’re standing on, took nearly four decades to construct and was completed in 1916. But more than a century later, the wall is badly in need of updates. And because of warming oceans, sea levels are expected to increase up to 66 inches between 2000-2100. Strengthening the wall has become the port’s top priority in light of this threat (as well as the potential for a large projected earthquake). The upgrades — which include an estimated $3 billion in sea level rise mitigation and $2 billion in earthquake retrofitting — will come at a huge cost to the city. “Right now, we have zero construction dollars,” Forbes says. To amass the funds, the city and the port are planning ballot initiatives and working with the US Army Corps of Engineers, which might chip in.
In the 2010s, U.S. companies, eager to meet Asia’s growing demand for coal with exports from Wyoming and Montana’s Powder River Basin, proposed six coal terminals in the Northwest. One in Longview, Washington, would ship about 44 million metric tons per year. Anti-fossil-fuel activists protested, and five of the proposals were dropped.
In late September, the sixth terminal proposal, Longview, was stymied when the Washington Department of Ecology denied a water quality permit, citing “unavoidable and negative environmental impacts,” potential traffic congestion and health hazards. Proponents of the $650 million project, which would have handled 16 mile-long trains per day, said the regulatory bar was too high. Activists were elated. “While this fight continues in British Columbia, these victories against exporting coal show the world we need to look forward, not backwards,” said Eileen Quigley, director of Clean Energy Transition.
In what is regarded as an unusual step, a group of 13 young people have joined together to become court sanctioned intervenors as they fight a proposed Enbridge Energy pipeline through northern Minnesota. Intervenors are sanctioned by the state Public Utilities Commission to represent parties in contested cases. They are generally lawyers and experts hired by energy firms, clean energy organizations, environmental groups, governmental agencies and an occasional citizen or two.
While not set in stone, the odds of Spencer County becoming home to the state’s largest solar project are about as good as they can be following a productive meeting between the county council and representatives from Orion Renewable Energy Group. The project, operating under the name Troy Solar LLC, would see a massive investment in solar panels on 800 acres of leased farmland between the communities of Troy and New Boston along Indiana 545. At a Sept. 19 meeting, the council agreed to move forward on designating the selected farmland, which local property owners are leasing to Orion Renewables for the project, as an Economic Revitalization Area. A public hearing on this matter, as well as proposed abatements to expedite construction, was conducted Monday evening with Justin Wolf of Orion Renewables and legal representative for the project Eric Schue making their case for Troy Solar.The proposal has changed, somewhat since the last meeting. Wolf explained that the solar market has been shaken somewhat by the expectation that new tariffs will be levied on imported solar panels, owing to a trade case brought by a number of American manufacturers. Though not yet settled one way or another, companies are factoring in those tariffs in their decisions, buying up panels and reducing available stock.
While there is some fear in the industry that many projects will be put on hold due to this federal action, Wolf explained that the proposed project north of Troy should not be among them. Instead, the expected completion date for Phase 1 has merely been pushed back to 2021. Anticipated equipment shortages have also pushed the upper range of the project’s first phase up about $10 million, with the costs projected anywhere from $50 to $80 million. This is a sizable shift to be sure, but one Wolf believed would not overcome the market forces behind the push for new solar power.
Every two years, the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), America’s official source for energy statistics, issues scenarios about how much solar, wind and conventional energy the future holds for the US. Every two years, since the mid-1990s, the EIA is wrong. Last year, it was spectacularly wrong. The Natural Resources Defense Council and Statista recently teamed up to analyze the EIA’s predictions for energy usage and production. It found that the EIA’s ten-year estimates between 2006 to 2016 systematically understated the share of wind, solar and gas. Solar capacity, in particular, was a whopping 4,813% more in 2016 than the EIA had predicted it would be.
Amazon Wind Farm Texas would add over 1 million megawatt hours (MWh) of clean energy to the grid annually. The facility, which is located in Scurry County, has over 100 turbines, each standing more than 300-feet tall and with a rotor diameter over double the wingspan of a Boeing 787.Amazon said the wind farm was built, owned and operated by Lincoln Clean Energy, which develops wind and solar projects in the U.S. Amazon has entered into a long-term agreement to purchase 90 percent of the facility's output.
An oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico last week may be the largest in the U.S. since the 2010 blowout at BP Plc’s Macondo well that sank the Deepwater Horizon rig and killed 11 people. LLOG Exploration Co. reported 7,950 to 9,350 barrels of oil were released Oct. 11 to Oct. 12 from subsea infrastructure about 40 miles (64 kilometers) southeast of Venice, Louisiana
Producing economically viable biofuels from biomass other than corn, however, is more complicated. Many biofuels researchers, including those at the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC) based at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, are now focused on making biofuels from low-input crops such as switchgrass and poplar. These dedicated bioenergy crops, no portion of which are used for food, avoid the conflicts that arise from growing food crops to produce fuel. Although not yet a market force, cellulosic biofuels, or fuels made from grasses and wood, are routinely factored into future climate mitigation scenarios because of their potential to displace petroleum use and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. Dedicated bioenergy crops can also be grown on non-agricultural land, require less fertilizer than annual crops such as corn, and boost biodiversity. Ultimately, GLBRC researchers hope to find ways of growing sustainable biomass and converting it to biofuels and bio-products that provide cost-competitive alternatives to petroleum-derived fuels and chemicals.Getting there, however, will depend on a number of scientific advancements, including finding new ways to harness the power and potential of yeast.