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New DOE competition aims to jump-start US solar manufacturing

The Hill | Posted on January 26, 2018

The Department of Energy announced a new competition Wednesday to "re-energize innovation" in the U.S. solar manufacturing market, following the president's decision earlier this week to place tariffs on imported solar panel technology. The challenge-based "American Made Solar Prize" would award $3 million to U.S. entrepreneurs focused on developing processes and products related to solar energy with a goal to "reassert American leadership in the solar marketplace."“The United States possesses the talent, expertise, and vision to surpass the rest of the world in solar technologies and forge a new solar energy landscape around the globe,” Energy Secretary Rick Perry said in a statement. “The American Made Solar Prize will galvanize our country’s entrepreneurs, allow them to utilize technologies and innovations developed through [the Department of Energy's] early-stage research and development, and, ultimately, bring new American-made products to market.”


Wind To Blow Past Hydropower As Top Clean Electricity Source In Major Milestone

Huffington Post | Posted on January 26, 2018

Wind power is forecast to surpass hydroelectricity for the first time as the nation’s top source of renewable electricity sometime in the next year, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said Wednesday. The sector is expected to produce 6.4 percent of utility-scale electricity in 2018, and 6.9 percent in 2019, propelled by a construction boom of new turbines across the country.Few new hydropower plants are in the works, so new electricity generation depends on how much rainfall and water runoff pools in existing dams and reservoirs. Hydropower provided 7.4 percent of utility-scale generation in 2017 ― a particularly wet year ― but that figure is projected to fall to about 6.5 percent in 2018 and 6.6 percent in 2019.


Job creator, or job killer? Trump angers solar installers with panel tariff

Reuters | Posted on January 25, 2018

 U.S. President Donald Trump signed into law a steep tariff on imported solar panels on Tuesday, a move billed as a way to protect American jobs but which the solar industry said would lead to thousands of layoffs and raise consumer prices.But the solar industry countered that the move will raise the cost of installing panels, quash billions of dollars of investment, and kill tens of thousands of jobs, raising questions about whether Trump’s move will backfire by triggering mass layoffs.“We are not happy with this decision,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, president of the U.S. Solar Energy Industries Association, on a conference call with reporters on Tuesday. “It’s just basic economics - if you raise the price of a product it’s going to decrease demand for that product.”The leading solar trade group predicted that the tariffs could cut forecasted solar installations this year by nearly 20 percent, to 9 gigawatts from 11 gigawatts, and lead to the loss of 23,000 jobs in the United States, the world’s fourth-largest solar market after China, Japan and Germany.


California to sue Trump administration for repeal of fracking rules

Reuters | Posted on January 25, 2018

California’s attorney general said the state plans to sue the Trump administration over its repeal of Obama-era rules meant to address public safety concerns in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, on federal lands. The federal government’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in 2015, under Democratic President Barack Obama, issued rules that would have required companies to provide data on chemicals used in fracking and to take steps to prevent leakage from oil and gas wells on federally-owned land. However, the rules for federal and tribal lands were never implemented because oil and gas industry groups sued to block them, arguing that they were unnecessary and would slow the country’s path to energy independence. That litigation ended when the Trump administration repealed the regulations last year.

 

 


Scientists find new cellulose for producing future renewable fuels, antibiotic drugs

Xinhuanet | Posted on January 25, 2018

A group of scientists with U.S. Stanford University have discovered a new type of cellulose in bacteria that could be used as a source for renewable fuels and antibiotic drugs in the future. A study by the Stanford researchers, whose findings were carried in the latest version of the journal Science, said the new modified cellulose, called pEtN, was extracted from one of the best studied bacteria -- E. coli, which is a large group of bacteria that can cause diarrhea, urinary tract infections, respiratory illness, pneumonia and other illnesses.Lynette Cegelski, an assistant professor of chemistry at Stanford and senior author of the research, discovered that the new cellulose had properties that were thought to be made to improve other sources of cellulose such as switchgrass or poplar for producing ethanol for fuels.


Trump's coal job push stumbles in most states - data

Reuters | Posted on January 20, 2018

President Donald Trump’s effort to put coal miners back to work stumbled in most coal producing states last year, even as overall employment in the downtrodden sector grew modestly, according to preliminary government data obtained by Reuters.  The effort has had little impact on domestic demand for coal so far, with U.S. utilities still shutting coal-fired power plants and shifting to cheaper natural gas - moving toward a lower carbon future despite the direction the White House is plotting under Trump. Unreleased full-year coal employment data from the Mining Health and Safety Administration shows total U.S. coal mining jobs grew by 771 to 54,819 during Trump’s first year in office, led by Central Appalachian states like West Virginia, Virginia, and Pennsylvania - where coal companies have opened a handful of new mining areas for shipment overseas.


EIA Expects Total U.S. Fossil Fuel Production to Reach Record Levels in 2018 and 2019

Oil Voice | Posted on January 20, 2018

In its January 2018 Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO), EIA forecasts that total fossil fuels production in the United States will average almost 73 quadrillion British thermal units (Btu) in 2018, the highest level of production on record. EIA expects total fossil fuel production to then set another record in 2019, with production forecast to rise to 75 quadrillion Btu.


Michigan landowners’ long-shot lawsuit has high stakes for wind industry

Midwest Energy News | Posted on January 17, 2018

An unlikely legal win by neighbors of a Michigan wind farm would have the potential to chill wind energy development in the state, legal experts say. A group of landowners filed suit in state court in August alleging a wind project near Lake Michigan in the Upper Peninsula is causing adverse health effects. These include sleep interruption and deprivation, stress, “extreme fatigue, anxiety and emotional distress.”Those claims will be difficult to prove, legal experts said, but if the landowners are successful it could have significant implications. That’s why clean energy groups are closely watching the case, which resurfaced in circuit court a month after being dismissed by a federal judge in July.


Low gas prices set to drive decline in coal generation

Utility Dive | Posted on January 17, 2018

U.S. natural gas production is expected to reach the highest year-over-year increase in 2018, according to the Energy Information Administration’s new Short-term Energy Outlook (STEO). With more gas supplies, the EIA expects gas prices in 2018 and 2019 to sink below 2017 prices, making it a more economic and attractive fuel for power generation.The EIA, an arm of the Department of Energy, expects gas-fired plants to generate 34% of the electricity in the United States in 2019 while coal-fired generation falls to 28%.


The Tax Overhaul and Your Farm

Ag Web | Posted on January 11, 2018

Farms can fully deduct all farm assets purchased between Sept. 28, 2017, and Dec. 31, 2022.Section 179 is bumped to $1 million beginning in 2018 with a phase-out starting at $2.5 million.There’s almost an automatic 20% deduction for net farm income.The tax plan doubles the lifetime estate tax exemption to $11.2 million starting in 2018, and most farmers will be able to deduct all of their interest expense.Net operating losses can only be carried back two years and can only offset 80% of income going forward.Meals are only 50% deductible for farmers who provide them to employees on-site, and that will drop to zero beginning in 2026.


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