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Energy News

Solar Power Net Metering Most Beneficial According to Study

Govtech | Posted on May 31, 2016

The Brookings Institution study determined net metering provided $36 million in benefits to all NV Energy customers, regardless of whether they were receiving net-metering credits. The paper largely concludes the benefits associated with net metering outweigh the costs and don’t pose significant cost increases for non-solar ratepayers. Net metering allows solar power users to send excess electricity back to the electric grid in return for rate credits.

Whatever Happened to Advanced Biofuels?

Scientific American | Posted on May 31, 2016

Cellulosic ethanol continues to struggle to use inedible crop waste to match ethanol from corn—and fossil fuels.  The Project Liberty plant is a multi–$100-million effort to get past the obstacles of food-versus-fuel debates, farmer recalcitrance and, ultimately, fossil fuels. It is also the fruition of a 16-year journey for founder and executive chairman Jeff Broin of ethanol-producing company POET.

Making ethanol from inedible parts of corn plants is perhaps better than using the edible starch in corn kernels that could find use as food or feed for animals. “We’re processing about 770 tons a day of corn stover—basically the leftovers from the cornfield—into ethanol,” Broin said.

Why This Power Company Is Making Energy From Pig Poo

Fortune | Posted on May 26, 2016

Power giant Duke Energy announced plans on Tuesday to buy gas generated by the waste from pigs on farms in North Carolina. The company will use the gas, made of methane, to generate electricity at two power stations.

Failed oil well near Wasta may put state in $2 million hole and could endanger water

Rapid City Journal | Posted on May 25, 2016

An attempt three years ago to drill an oil well 9,700 feet deep, through multiple water aquifers and a highly dense layer of pre-Cambrian rock near Wasta, ended very badly.And now the state of South Dakota may be on the hook for a $2 million repair and clean-up bill, and officials are worried over the failed well's impact on local fresh water supplies. The trouble began when a drill bit broke partway down after going through several aquifers. The bit and a long length of drill pipe are still in the hole at the well that is located about 45 miles east of Rapid City. Cement plugs to protect the aquifers from each other can’t be installed. The broken bit and pipe block the way.

Reassessing Local Wind Energy Standards

Center for Rural Affairs | Posted on May 25, 2016

Wind energy continues to be a growing industry in the United States. Several states are tapping this renewable resource for over 20% of their power needs. As growth continues, projects are breaking new ground. Developers are interacting with more communities and landowners in the process.  While landowners received at least $180 million in land lease payments (and that number could continue to grow to $1 billion annually by 2050), many still face challenges from the development of projects on their land. Many counties and municipalities are reassessing their  standards for zoning and siting requirements or developing them for the first time.  This report describes the typical elements in the construction process, and lays out potential problems landowners and communities might face. We review county regulations for commercial wind energy systems. Finally, we provide recommendations for future development of wind energy systems.

EPA finalizes rules to reduce methane leakage

High Country News | Posted on May 22, 2016

Last August, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed the first-ever rule targeting methane leaks from oil and gas infrastructure. Environmentalists lauded its potential to keep the greenhouse gas, which is 86 times more potent than carbon dioxide, out of the atmosphere. Yet the rule had flaws: It did not apply to existing wells and facilities, or to low-producing wells, and therefore did little to address methane plumes emanating from areas with a history of production, such as the hot spot over the Four Corners region. 
On May 12, the EPA finalized the rule, nixing the exemption for low-producing wells, increasing the frequency of leak detection and otherwise tightening up last year’s proposal. The new regulations should keep some 11 million tons of methane out of the air by 2025, and also lay the groundwork for extending regulation to existing wells and infrastructure.

What the West’s trees tell us

High COuntry News | Posted on May 20, 2016

How can biomass and carbon data help us mitigate the effects of human activity?  Every tree tells part of the story of Earth and its atmosphere, from the planet’s available carbon and oxygen to its soil and water health. Tree height and forest undergrowth help scientists study biodiversity and predict wildfires, while the location and density of growth are linked to hydrology and erosion in mountainous regions. Scientists have long studied these patterns, but until five years ago, there was no comprehensive way to keep track of them. Instead, scientific understanding was piecemeal and regional. In 2011, Wayne Walker and Josef Kellndorfer from the Woods Hole Research Center mapped every forest in the United States, along with its biomass and the carbon it stores, using satellite and ground data collected by the U.S. Forest Service, NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey from 1999 to 2002, to create a forest biomass map in more precise detail than any other made. The darker the spot, the denser, taller and more robust the forests are. Predictable trends emerge: The rich forests of the Pacific Northwest and Northern California are obvious, for example. But there were also surprising insights, like the grid-like patterns created by human development in other Western forests. The map is already helping public-lands agencies and academics study and manage forest restoration, but researchers are working to update it: Western forests are changing rapidly due to logging, climate change and tree disease. “It’s more valuable to understand how the forest is changing over time, in terms of ability to store carbon,” Walker says. For now, land managers rely on these pixelated swaths of green as their baseline for understanding our country’s forests and their future.  

EPA releases renewable fuel volume requirements

Farm & Ranch | Posted on May 19, 2016

The EPA today proposed volume requirements that are lower than statutory targets for cellulosic biofuel, advanced biofuel and total renewable fuel, however they are increases from 2016 requirements.

Cellulosic biofuel renewable fuel volume increases from 230 million gallons in 2016 to a proposed 312 million gallons in 2017. In statue, it’s set at 5.5. Advanced biofuel increases from 3.61 billion gallons to a proposed 4 billion gallons. Total renewable fuel increases from 18.11 billion gallons to a proposed 18.8 billion gallons. Biomass-based biodiesel was set at 1.9 billion gallons in 2016 and 2 billion gallons in 2017. It is proposed to increase to 2.1 billion gallons in 2018. The period for public input and comment will open until July 11. 

Humans have been causing earthquakes in Texas since the 1920s

Science News | Posted on May 19, 2016

Earthquakes triggered by human activity have been happening in Texas since at least 1925, and they have been widespread throughout the state ever since, according to a new historical review of the evidence. The earthquakes are caused by oil and gas operations, but the specific production techniques behind these quakes have differed over the decades, according to Cliff Frohlich, the study's lead author and senior research scientist and associate director at the Institute for Geophysics at the University of Texas at Austin. Frohlich said the evidence presented in the SRL paper should lay to rest the idea that there is no substantial proof for human-caused earthquakes in Texas, as some state officials have claimed as recently as 2015.

Ethanol groups criticize bill to limit ethanol to 9.7 percent

Ethanol Producer Magazine | Posted on May 16, 2016

A bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives that aims to limit the total volume of ethanol contained in transportation fuel to 9.7 percent. Members of the ethanol industry have spoken out to criticize the legislation.

The bill, titled the “Food and Fuel Consumer Protection Act of 2016,” or H.R. 5180, was introduced by Rep. Bill Flores, R-Texas. To date, Reps. Jim Costa, D-Calif.; Bob Goodlatte, R-Va.; Cedric L. Richmond, D-La.; Peter Welch, D-Vt.; and Steve Womack, R-Ark., have signed on to cosponsor the measure. Following its introduction, the bill was referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce