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New best friends: GOP governors and renewables

EEnews | Posted on June 28, 2017

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval is fresh off a legislative session in which he signed nine bills aimed at supporting the clean energy sector. In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott recently signed a tax exemption that solar installers say is essential to jump-starting the residential and commercial market in the Sunshine State. And in Iowa, where wind now accounts for 36 percent of the state's electricity generation, newly installed Gov. Kim Reynolds recently finished an energy plan that calls for growing the wind, biofuels and solar industries.in states like Iowa and Nevada, which lack a local fossil fuel industry, Republican leaders are becoming increasingly comfortable with renewables. Wind now employs more than 8,000 people in Iowa. Two utilities in the Hawkeye State announced plans last year to invest $4.6 billion in new wind farms.Reynolds follows in the footsteps of longtime Gov. Terry Branstad (R), an outspoken wind advocate during six nonconsecutive terms in Des Moines. Branstad stepped down this year to serve as the U.S. ambassador to China.As lieutenant governor, Reynolds led efforts last year to complete an Iowa Energy Plan. It calls for more ambitious renewable energy targets, best practices to help municipalities site turbines and grid modernization pilot projects, among other measures.The state's wind industry has helped attract Facebook, Microsoft and Google data centers to Iowa, said Brenna Smith, a spokeswoman for the governor."In general, renewable energy has provided for local energy production, job and business growth, increases in property tax revenue, and clean energy production in our own backyard," Smith said.


New best friends: GOP governors and renewables

EEnews | Posted on June 26, 2017

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval is fresh off a legislative session in which he signed nine bills aimed at supporting the clean energy sector. In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott recently signed a tax exemption that solar installers say is essential to jump-starting the residential and commercial market in the Sunshine State. And in Iowa, where wind now accounts for 36 percent of the state's electricity generation, newly installed Gov. Kim Reynolds recently finished an energy plan that calls for growing the wind, biofuels and solar industries."For years, our fields have fed the world. Now, they energize it. They produce products that fuel cars, and they host wind turbines that power our communities and businesses," Reynolds said in her inaugural address last month. "And yet those fields are filled with untapped potential. Our energy plan will help us continue to lead the way in wind energy and renewable fuels. Working together, we can have the most innovative energy policy in the country."The growing embrace of renewables by Republican governors stands in stark contrast to the president. Trump's budget request for fiscal 2018 includes a 70 percent reduction to the Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Energy Secretary Rick Perry, who has expressed concern about coal's decline and renewables' rise, has embarked on a grid reliability study. And in speeches across the country, Trump has railed against renewables while promising to revive the coal sector. But in states like Iowa and Nevada, which lack a local fossil fuel industry, Republican leaders are becoming increasingly comfortable with renewables. Wind now employs more than 8,000 people in Iowa. Two utilities in the Hawkeye State announced plans last year to invest $4.6 billion in new wind farms.Reynolds follows in the footsteps of longtime Gov. Terry Branstad (R), an outspoken wind advocate during six nonconsecutive terms in Des Moines. Branstad stepped down this year to serve as the U.S. ambassador to China.As lieutenant governor, Reynolds led efforts last year to complete an Iowa Energy Plan. It calls for more ambitious renewable energy targets, best practices to help municipalities site turbines and grid modernization pilot projects, among other measures.The state's wind industry has helped attract Facebook, Microsoft and Google data centers to Iowa, said Brenna Smith, a spokeswoman for the governor."In general, renewable energy has provided for local energy production, job and business growth, increases in property tax revenue, and clean energy production in our own backyard," Smith said.


Bitter scientific debate erupts over the future of America's power grid

Chicago Tribune | Posted on June 23, 2017

Scientists are engaged in an increasingly bitter and personal feud over how much of the United States' power it can get from renewable sources, with a large group of scientists taking aim at a popular recent paper that claimed the country could move beyond fossil fuels entirely by 2055. In 2015, Stanford professor Mark Jacobson and his colleagues argued that between 2050 and 2055, the U.S. could be entirely powered by "clean" energy sources and "no natural gas, biofuels, nuclear power, or stationary batteries are needed." That would be a massive shift from the current power makeup, as in 2016, the United States only got 6.5 percent of its electricity from hydropower, 5.6 percent from wind, and 0.9 percent from solar. Nonetheless, the paper excited proponents of renewable energy, and has been embraced by Sen. Bernie Sanders, celebrity backers such actor Mark Ruffalo, and many environmental groups.But Jacobson's idea was always contentious. And now, no fewer than 21 researchers have published a study in the influential Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (which also published Jacobson's original study in 2015) arguing that the work "used invalid modeling tools, contained modeling errors, and made implausible and inadequately supported assumptions." "We thought we had to write a peer reviewed piece to highlight some of the mistakes and have a broader discussion about what we really need to fight climate change," said lead study author Christopher Clack of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Earth System Research Laboratory. "And we felt the only way to do it in a fair and unbiased way was to go through peer review, and have external referees vet it to make sure we're not saying anything that's untrue in our piece."Clack is backed in the study by a number of noted colleagues including prominent climate research Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution, energy researcher Dan Kammen of the University of California, Berkeley, and former EPA Science Advisory Board chair Granger Morgan.In a simultaneous letter in the journal, meanwhile, Jacobson and three Stanford colleagues fire back that Clack's critique is itself "riddled with errors" and "demonstrably false."


Exxon, BP and Shell back carbon tax proposal to curb emissions

The Guardian | Posted on June 23, 2017

Oil giants ExxonMobil, Shell, BP and Total are among a group of large corporations supporting a plan to tax carbon dioxide emissions in order to address climate change. The companies have revealed their support for the Climate Leadership Council, a group of senior Republican figures that in February proposed a $40 fee on each ton of CO2 emitted as part of a “free-market, limited government” response to climate change.The fossil fuel companies announced their backing for the plan alongside other major firms including Unilever, PepsiCo, General Motors and Johnson & Johnson.In a full-page newspaper ad, the companies called for a “consensus climate solution that bridges partisan divides, strengthens our economy and protects our shared environment”. Exxon and the others were listed as founding members of the plan, alongside the green groups Conservation International and the Nature Conservancy.


Sustainable ethanol from carbon dioxide? A possible path

Science Daily | Posted on June 23, 2017

A recent discovery could lead to a new, more sustainable way to make ethanol without corn or other crops. This promising technology has three basic components: water, carbon dioxide and electricity delivered through a copper catalyst.To compare electrocatalytic performance, the researchers placed the three large electrodes in water, exposed them to carbon dioxide gas and applied a potential to generate an electric current.The results were clear. When a specific voltage was applied, the electrodes made of copper (751) were far more selective to liquid products, such as ethanol and propanol, than those made of copper (100) or (111). The explanation may lie in the different ways that copper atoms are aligned on the three surfaces."In copper (100) and (111), the surface atoms are packed close together, like a square grid and a honeycomb, respectively" Hahn said. "As a result, each atom is bonded to many other atoms around it, and that tends to make the surface more inert."


Regulatory overhaul could give boost to independent generation in Michigan

Midwest Energy News | Posted on June 23, 2017

Advocates say recent regulatory changes in Michigan could spur more solar energy development from independent producers and ensure existing renewable energy generators are paid fair prices from utilities for their power. On May 31, the Michigan Public Service Commission approved changes to the way avoided costs are determined under the federal Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA) of 1978. Avoided costs are those that utilities pay independent power producers for their electricity that the utility would have otherwise had to pay itself. In Michigan, there are 45 facilities under contract with utilities, mostly landfill gas and hydro.The long-awaited changes to determining avoided costs, which are the first in roughly 25 years in Michigan, could provide protection to independent power producers who say they are at risk of shutting down. In a rate caseinvolving Consumers Energy, producers feared their avoided costs would have been cut in half, making their plants not economically viable.


This EPA research program just got a rave scientific review. Trump wants to eliminate it.

The Washington Post | Posted on June 23, 2017

A report released Thursday by the National Academy of Sciences — and prepared at the request of the EPA — argues that the agency’s Science to Achieve Results, or STAR, program, which provides millions of dollars in funding for scientific research each year, has contributed to important benefits for the environment and the public health. And it recommends that the agency continue to use it.“This report shows that through STAR, EPA has created a vehicle that fosters collaboration and knowledge-sharing, which have produced research that has supported interventions that may reduce the cost of regulations, protect public health, and save lives,” the document states.STAR is just one of dozens of EPA programs that would be defunded under the Trump administration’s proposed 2018 budget, which has sparked outrage among scientists and environmentalists alike. Total cuts would amount to about $2.4 billion annually, or nearly a third of the agency’s budget. On Thursday, testifying before a House appropriations subcommittee, Pruitt spoke in favor of the proposed cuts, highlighting his support for the elimination of “redundancies and inefficiencies.” In justifying the proposed STAR program cut, the EPA’s proposed 2018 budget document explains that the program “funds research grants and graduate fellowships in environmental science and engineering disciplines through a competitive solicitation process and independent peer review. EPA will prioritize activities that support decision-making related to core environmental statutory requirements, as opposed to extramural activities.”But according to the National Academy of Sciences review, the STAR program is no redundancy. Defunding it could harm the future of environmental and health-related research in the United States, said Harold Mooney, an environmental biologist at Stanford University and one of the National Academy of Sciences committee members who helped prepare the report. The program fills “a very important niche, and that is doing solution-based research in environmental biology and public health,” he told The Washington Post


For First Time in History, Solar Jobs Outnumber Coal Jobs in Virginia

WVTF | Posted on June 23, 2017

Virginia has long been coal country, but the solar power industry has been increasing its foothold in the Commonwealth over the last few years. Virginia now has more jobs in the solar industry than the coal industry. Numbers from the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy show a 40% drop in the number of people working in the coal industry over the last five years. Henry Childress with the Virginia Coal and Energy Alliance says coal produces more energy with fewer employees.For now, though, the solar industry has more employees in Virginia than the coal industry. That’s a dramatic shift for a state that has a long history with coal. Alexander Winn at the Solar Foundation says he’s hopeful some of those jobs might move from coal to solar.“There are efforts to retrain some coal workers, and hopefully those will continue to grow as solar becomes an increasingly large employment sector in the Virginia energy industry.”Most solar energy jobs are in installation, construction and manufacturing. Numbers from the Solar Foundation show that the industry grew by about 65% over the last year alone.


A Century-Old Tech Is Making a Comeback Thanks to Renewables

Futurism | Posted on June 23, 2017

DC power lines are being used again thanks to their ability to outperform AC lines over long distances and directly connect with renewable power sources. This makes bringing green energy from distant rural locations to urban centers possible. In the near future, the few DC transmission lines which are now scattered all over the country may be connected by nine or more new long-distance lines. These high-voltage DC (HVDC) lines are a reflection of the geography of renewable power trends. Rural areas such as the Midwest now produce a large quantity of renewable energy that urban centers need — and power companies need to get it there.“You have remote resources, and there’s just not enough infrastructure to move that energy to the market,” Clean Line Energy Partners executive vice president of engineering Wayne Galli told Scientific American. His organization plans to build four HVDC lines.Building these lines will also help the renewable energy industry grow; this is why entities like Clean Line Energy Partners are investing in them. “Using DC lines is a much better solution for moving power from big, remote wind or solar farms,” University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Energy and the Energy GRID Institute director Gregory Reed told Scientific American. “It’s a rapid change in where we’re getting our resources from.”


Think Wind Turbines and Solar Panels Are Fads? Think Again

Motley Fool | Posted on June 23, 2017

Renewable energy often gets dismissed as a relatively insignificant part of the power picture because it doesn't generate as much of America's electricity as coal, natural gas, or nuclear plants. The president of the United States has even said he doesn't think wind "works," and he's certainly no fan of solar energy.  But the opinions that wind and solar are fads, or are too minor to care about, or "don't work" are simply wrong. In fact, wind and solar will soon overtake nuclear for the percentage of U.S. power they generate, and coal could be next. New data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration shows that wind and solar combined to provide 10% of U.S. net electricity generation in March 2017, up from about 1% a decade ago. Wind accounted for 8% during the month and solar accounted for 2%. 


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