Wind energy, the fastest-growing source of electricity in the U.S., is transforming low-income rural areas in ways not seen since the federal government gave land to homesteaders 150 years ago. As commodity prices threaten to reach decade lows and farmers struggle to meet debt payments, wind has become the newest cash crop, saving family farms across a wide swath of the heartland. The money Richard Wilson earns from leasing his land for about 35 turbines run by the Golden West Wind Energy Center outside Colorado Springs has kept him from having to sell off pieces of the 6,000-acre cattle and wheat ranch his family has owned since 1948. “We weren’t making enough money to sustain ourselves,” he says. “Now we’re in a position where we can operate our farm for another generation at least.” For others, turbines spin off six-figure incomes that have allowed them to retire from farming altogether. “One turbine has changed my life,” says Ed Woolsey, a fifth-generation Iowa farmer and a principal with Crosswinds Energy Project, a community collective that manages 10 turbines and sells the power they generate to rural electric cooperatives. “Before, I raised corn and soybeans and cattle. Now I don’t. I’m a wind farmer.” Woolsey leases his farm to others to cultivate. Neither he nor Wilson would disclose how much he earns, but landowners who sign lease agreements with wind companies typically get between $7,000 and $10,000 per turbine each year.
Ontario's Liberal government took steps to take some pressure off of rising electricity rates, cancelling plans to sign contracts for up to 1,000 megawatts of power from solar, wind and other renewable energy sources. Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault said the move will save up to $3.8 billion of the costs projected in the 2013 long-term energy plan, and will keep about $2.45 a month from being added to hydro bills for homeowners and small businesses. The Independent Electricity System Operator's planning outlook determined Ontario has a "a strong supply of clean power" for the next decade, added Thibeault.
On Oct. 3, the U.S. EPA released its proposed Renewable Enhancement and Growth Support rule, which aims to enhance the renewable fuel standard (RFS) program and related fuel regulations to support the growth of ethanol and other renewable fuels. The proposal includes an updated regulatory structure to allow biofuels producers to partially process feedstock at one facility and convert the resulting material into fuels at another using existing pathways. It also updates fuel regulations to allow expanded availability of high-ethanol fuel blends for use in flex fuel vehicles (FFVs) and includes new feedstock approvals for cellulosic biofuels produced from short-rotation poplar and willow, cellulosic diesel produced from compressing of cellulosic feedstocks and petroleum, and renewable diesel and biodiesel produced from non-cellulosic portions of separated food waste. In addition, the EPA said it is seeking comments on a variety of other issues, including renewable identification number (RIN) generation for renewable electricity used as transportation fuel and requirements for facilities that could use carbon capture and storage (CCS) to reduce carbon in the production of renewable fuels in the future.
When it comes to deciding how to overhaul the state's energy policy, the Michigan legislature isn't suffering from a lack of input. According to an analysis from the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, at least 145 registered lobbyists have either submitted position statements to committees about proposed energy reforms or are registered as working for key players. That means the lobbyists outnumber the 144 state legislators -- a number which is typically 148 but has been lowered due to two resignations and two deaths. After the Nov. 8 general election, three of those vacancies will be filled.
A state environmental review board voted Wednesday to allow Wyoming's first major coal mine in decades to proceed despite the objections of another coal company. Amid competition from natural gas and tougher environmental regulations, coal mines tend to be cutting back production or even shutting down — not opening anew. Kentucky-based Ramaco's relatively small Brook Mine would buck that trend but has faced opposition from another company and a ranch. The Wyoming Environmental Quality Council voted unanimously to allow Ramaco to go ahead despite the Big Horn Coal Company's objections.
As the U.S. and other countries have ramped up development of bio-energy as an alternative to fossil fuels, demand is rising for trees for wood pellets, or biomass, and agricultural products for liquefied biofuels. A recent multi-year study by researchers at North Carolina State University and the U.S. Geological Survey, detailed in two papers printed in August in the journal “Global Change Biology Bioenergy,” indicates that the increased demand could come with a cost: a loss of forested land, especially mature pinelands, and because of that, less habitat for wildlife.
The fracking boom in America kicked off almost by accident. An engineer worried about losing his job kept experimenting until he hit on a technique that changed the world. Back in 1995, Nick Steinsberger was 31. He was working for an oil company called Mitchell Energy. And he had just gotten a promotion. He was put in charge of an area called the Barnett Shale. It was in central Texas. And the company had a bunch of natural gas wells there. A couple of months in, management called him in for a meeting.
The fate of a nuisance case against an Oklahoma wind farm is up to a federal judge after a hearing Tuesday in Oklahoma City. More than 60 members of the Oklahoma Wind Action Associated showed up for the hearing before U.S. District Judge Timothy D. DeGiusti on a motion by Kingfisher Wind LLC to issue a summary judgment in the case. After the two-hour hearing, DeGiusti said he will rule at a later date. If he declines to grant the wind company's motion, the case will proceed to a bench trial. Citing complaints over noise, shadow flicker and other concerns, the landowners want turbines in the development to be at least two miles (10,560 feet) from their homes.
The Hogan administration has proposed rules that would prohibit the gas-drilling technique known as fracking within 2,000 feet of a private drinking water well, require steel casings around gas bores to a depth of 100 feet, and require energy companies to replace any water supply that is contaminated by the practice. The Maryland Department of the Environment submitted the measures to a legislative committee that reviews regulations, a year before a state ban on fracking ends. The plan was unveiled five days ahead of the Oct. 1 deadline set by lawmakers for the rules to be formally adopted. Department of the Environment officials now expect the approval process to finish by the end of the year instead. Secretary Ben Grumbles said the rules “will be the most stringent and protective environmental shale regulations in the country.”
Missouri is one of three most improved states in the 2016 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard, which is published by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. The state ranked 32nd in 2016, rising 12 positions from its 2015 ranking. Missouri scored 13.5 points out of a possible 50, five more points than it earned in last year’s ranking.