The largest coal plant in the Western United States will keep operating through 2019 after its owners received approval from the federal Bureau of Reclamation and Bureau of Indian Affairs to extend its lease on Wednesday. The plant's owners, including Reclamation and a group of utilities, had planned to close the 2,250 MW Navajo Generating Station (NGS) in 2018. The Navajo Nation, which owns the land on which the plant sits, voted to extend its lease until 2019, but needed final approval from the federal agency. Arizona utility Salt River Project (SRP) and other owners still plan to shutter the facility after its lease expires, citing competitive pressures from cheap natural gas. The Navajo Nation and coal supplier Peabody Energy are working to find a new owner for the plant.
As renewable energy prices drop, schools are saving millions, while teaching students about technology. Their solar capacity has nearly doubled in three years. The number of schools powered by solar is growing quickly. About 5 percent of all K-12 U.S. schools are now powered by the sun, and their solar capacity has almost doubled in the last three years, according to a new study by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), The Solar Foundation, and Generation 180, a clean energy nonprofit.The nearly 5,500 schools using solar power today have a total of 910 megawatts of solar capacity, enough to power 190,000 homes, according to the study.The biggest reason for the surge is the economic benefits of solar energy. Drastic declines in price have made it financially viable for schools. Both public and private schools are reducing their electricity bills with solar, leaving them more money to spend on educational programs, according to the research. Many are also incorporating renewable energy into their science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) lessons.
Despite a unanimous vote by a citizen’s air pollution board earlier this month, Virginia faces several hurdles, including possible court and legislative challenges, before it could join a regional carbon emissions trading network. “The biggest threat,” said Will Cleveland of the Southern Environmental Law Center, is “legislation in the General Assembly attacking or rolling back DEQ’s (Department of Environmental Quality) authority to address carbon pollution or some sort of budgetary maneuver to defund DEQ’s efforts.”“In court,” Cleveland added, “I’d anticipate litigation similar to (opponents’) challenges to the Clean Power Plan, attacking DEQ’s authority to regulate carbon.”The DEQ is the agency coordinating Virginia’s bid to link up with the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI, by early 2019.State Sen. Frank Wagner, who chairs the committee that presides over energy legislation in that chamber, has promised to bring in “all of the key players” with a “barrage of questions about the legality” of Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s executive directive to link up with RGGI as a state-based replacement for the Clean Power Plan.
In 2014, Stanley Sturgill traveled 1,300 miles from his home in Harlan County, Kentucky, to Denver, where the Environmental Protection Agency held one of four public hearings and 11 listening sessions on new rules to limit pollution from power plants. The retired coal miner ― diagnosed with black lung and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease from his years toiling underground ― begged the agency for help: “We’re dying, literally dying for you to help us.”On Tuesday, Sturgill, 72, drove three hours to Charleston, West Virginia, for the EPA’s only public hearing on the Trump administration’s proposal to repeal the Obama-era Clean Power Plan. Hunched in front of a microphone at a rounded wooden table in the Senate Judiciary Committee Room of the West Virginia Legislature, he made his plea once again: “We’re still dying ― we’re still literally dying ― for you to help us.”“Just how many people must pay the supreme price of death for a few rich, greedy people to bank a few dollars?” Sturgill said. He noted how long he and his wife, Sharon, had trekked just to speak for a few minutes. “We may be old, but we still love living.”His testimony, about 90 minutes into the 9-to-5 hearing, punctuated a morning packed with fawning praise for President Donald Trump, back-patting Republican lawmakers, and exhausted public health advocates who’ve spent years repeating the same statistics on climate change and asthma.“Do I really think that this administration cares what this old, worn-out coal miner has to say? Well, I don’t know. I really doubt it. But I had to be here,” Sturgill said, “as long as I can draw breath.” The EPA estimates the social cost of carbon ― climate-change related damages to property, human health, economic growth and agriculture ― to be between $11 and $105 per ton of carbon dioxide pollution. But the real cost could be 129 times higher, according to a study released this month from Purdue University, which found that existing models relied on decades-old agricultural data.
In a filing with the state Public Service Commission, Ameren said its Renewable Choice Program would enable certain customers to “subscribe” to wind energy for up to 100 percent of their average energy needs. The move comes on the heels of the utility’s September announcement that it will invest $1 billion in new wind generation — its biggest commitment yet to renewable energy.
The cost of renewables is plunging faster than forecasters anticipated just a few years ago as as technologies like gigantic wind turbines arrive on the market. That’s the conclusion of Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), whose founder Michael Liebreich estimated that clean energy will reap 86 percent of the $10.2 trillion likely to be invested in power generation by 2040.In a presentation to the research group’s conference in London on Tuesday, Liebreich said technology that’s slashing the costs of wind and solar farms makes it inevitable that clean energy will become more economical than fossil fuels for utilities in many places. The most visible advance is in the scale of wind turbines. “The first is when new wind and solar become cheaper than anything else,” Liebreich said. The slide below from his presentation indicates that in Japan by 2025 it will be cheaper to build a new PV plant than a coal-fired power generator. That milestone will be passed in India for wind power by 2030.
Illinois has invested billions in electricity grid infrastructure, and now ranks 2nd nationally on grid modernization, but are these bulky efforts actually paying off nearly six years into the state’s initiative? State utilities have markedly improved reliability and operational efficiency through innovative smart grid technologies, but Illinois’ ambitious goal of adding more than 4 gigawatts (GW) of new wind and solar requires more than a modern grid - it requires more flexibility from customers.Fortunately, realistic policy solutions are within reach. By removing market barriers to expand “real-time” power pricing options and maximize the benefits of smart meter investments, Illinois citizens could save billions and create a flexible grid capable of handling a massive expected influx of renewable energy by 2030.
Throughout 2017, Wisconsinites kept hearing an old argument: jobs versus the environment. We must choose, we are told, between a healthy environment and a strong economy. Nonsense.In fact, during this age of global warming, one of the best ways to build a robust economy is to protect the environment and promote clean energy. And ignoring the effects of climate change hurts our economy. According to the group Clean Jobs Midwest, Wisconsin ranks dead last among Midwestern states in its percentage of clean-energy jobs — 0.85 percent, compared to an average of 1.8 percent. If Wisconsin had just the average rate of Midwestern states, we would have around 30,000 more jobs.These clean-energy jobs do not depend on handing taxpayer money to foreign corporations. They do not involve sacrificing environmental protections. They would be situated throughout the state and could not be outsourced. And, all the while, they would help protect our economy from the increasing ravages of global warming.
The Midland County Board of Commissioners had the opportunity this week to receive unbiased information regarding wind turbines. At its regularly scheduled meeting, the board welcomed Sarah Mills, who presented the "Pros and Cons of Wind farms." Funded by the C.S. Mott Foundation, Mills conducted a 2016 survey "on the public acceptance of wind turbines in the communities surrounding 10 of Michigan's utility-scale farms." Those wind farms were located on the Garden Peninsula in Delta County of the Upper Peninsula; two were around the city of McBain; and the remaining seven were located in Huron County. The survey was an expansion of Mills' original 2014 pilot study of farmland owners in these communities."In the course of the survey, I surveyed a lot of township board members, and planning commission members. They told me it is very hard to get non-biased information. You can get one side or the other, but not both," Mills said. The article repors the opinions of people in the region.
Grants for solar energy manufacturing and arrays are being offered again in Pennsylvania. The Wolf administration announced this week that it had added back grants to the Solar Energy Program, which is designed to help finance solar energy projects and manufacturing in the state. The program is an initiative of the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the Commonwealth Financing Authority. The program will now allow for grants of up to $5,000 or loans of up to $40,000 for each solar-manufacturing job created over three years for companies that make solar panels and equipment. It would also provide loans for companies that install solar energy projects for their own use. The funding is available to businesses, economic development organizations, cities, counties or school districts.