FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Karen Uhlenhuth for Midwest Energy NewsOver the past several weeks, both utilities made presentations to the Alliant and MidAmerican outlining potential rate changes that would impose a demand fee on customers who generate some of their own power.The demand charge, which is based on a customer’s peak demand for power, is common for industrial and commercial customers, and recently some utilities have begun exploring similar charges for residential customers.“We’re concerned that Alliant and MidAmerican are trying to force the parties into a confrontation around very dramatic rate-design changes, and singling out solar customers in particular to bear the brunt of these new rates they want to charge,” said Brad Klein, an attorney with the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “We feel it is not appropriate and is not called for by any data that has been collected.”Klein and other clean-energy advocates also are concerned that the utilities may try to push through a new rate without going through a rate case, the standard process for doing so.Full article: Iowa utilities float new charges for customers with rooftop solar Utilities in Iowa Orchestrate Strategy Against Rooftop Solar
FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Windpower Monthly:[China’s State Power Investment Corporation] received planning approval for the Ulanqab Wind Power Base, which would be spread across a 3,800km2 area in the north of China, close to the border with Mongolia, at the end of 2018.If built, it would be the largest onshore wind farm in the world, Spic stated. It would deliver 18.9TWh a year to the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei power market to the south, Spic predicted, following an investment of CNY 46.54 billion (US$ 6.78 billion).It plans to build the project without subsidy and only receive the market price of thermal power generation in Ulanqab. In 2018 coal-fired power generation was priced at CNY 282.9/MWh ($41.26/MWh), but this could fluctuate by the time the project is operational.Spic did not confirm when the project would be completed, but stated that it would help power the 2022 Winter Olympic Games that are due to be hosted in Beijing.Xiaoyang Li, a senior analyst at consultancy Wood Mackenzie Power and Renewables’ (formerly Make Consulting) Asia Pacific team, told Windpower Monthly she expected Spic to develop the project in several phases. But the developer could face several challenges completing the project, she added.Li said: “The challenge could be the potential curtailment due to limited transmission space and a saturated Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei power market. If curtailment can’t be solved, the profitability of the projects will be a concern.”More: Challenges ahead for ‘world’s largest’ wind farm Largest wind farm globally moves forward in north China
Incoming TVA CEO backs board’s decision to close Paradise, Bull Run coal plants FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Associated Press:Shutting down a Kentucky coal-fired power plant is the right decision, the new head of the Tennessee Valley Authority said Friday. President Donald Trump and the U.S. Senate majority leader who hails from Kentucky had previously criticized the move.Jeff Lyash took over as president and CEO of the nation’s largest public utility on Monday. In an interview with The Associated Press, Lyash said the Paradise Fossil Plant is at the end of its life and no longer cost effective to operate.Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had joined Trump in the plea to keep Paradise up and running, but TVA’s board still voted days later in February to retire the remaining coal-fired unit there by December 2020. The board also voted to close the Bull Run Fossil Plant near Oak Ridge, Tennessee, by December 2023.“These coal plants were ‘the’ technology when they were built,” Lyash said Friday. But he added that technology has changed along with customer demands. “And that’s what leads to decisions like retirements on Paradise and Bull Run. For me it has little to do with a ‘war on coal’ or anything else. It has to do with deciding what’s best for the Tennessee Valley,” he said.Lyash did not signal any big changes for the utility with the change in leadership. Outgoing CEO Bill Johnson is taking over at San Francisco-based PG&E later this month.Asked about groundwater pollution from TVA’s coal ash dumps, Lyash said monitoring wells have shown the pollution is “fairly contained around the ash sites.”More: New TVA head says board right on coal plant closures
FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Recharge:Romanian power company Hidroelectrica as part of an updated investment plan intends to build 600MW of wind power capacity by 2026, including a 300MW offshore wind farm that would be the first ever to be built in the Black Sea, [according to] local reports in the southeast European nation.The state-owned company plans to first carry out a wind measurement campaign and has earmarked 2.9bn Romanian Lei ($646m) for the wind farm project, according to the Economica Net business website.The news came as a new report from the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and World Bank said the Black Sea has a ‘technical’ sea-based wind power resource of 500GW.So far, there are no concrete plans for the development of wind farms in waters of the Black Sea, which is landlocked by Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Russia and Georgia.Romania didn’t build any new wind farms last year, and has a cumulative wind capacity of 3GW, all on land, according to WindEurope statistics. That includes the 600MW Fantanele-Cogealac complex – one of Europe’s largest – in the province of Dobrogea close to the Black Sea.[Bernd Radowitz]More: Romania plans first Black Sea offshore wind farm: report Romania looking to build first offshore wind farms in the Black Sea
New York issues solicitation for 4GW of renewable energy generation FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享PV Tech:New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced the largest combined green energy solicitations ever issued in the US, seeking up to 4GW of renewable capacity to combat climate change.While the majority of the solicitations’ combined total – 2.5GW – is for offshore wind, two solicitations for land-based, large-scale renewable energy look to procure more than 1.5GW of capacity.The land-based solicitations, combined with a multi-port funding opportunity, are expected to spur approximately US$7 billion in direct investments and to create approximately 4,500 short- and long-term jobs, as Cuomo aims to jumpstart economic growth amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The land-based renewable solicitations are being issued by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and the New York Power Authority (NYPA).NYSERDA’s solicitation calls for the development of Tier-1 eligible renewable energy projects that will generate 1.6 million MWh or more annually. Projects selected will be the fastest to construction under legislation aimed at vastly accelerating renewable energy. NYSERDA expects to notify the awarded developers in early 2021.Meanwhile, NYPA’s solicitation calls for the development of utility-scale renewable projects that will produce an annual output of up to 2 million MWh or more. Eligible technologies include solar photovoltaic and wind and may include an option to pair with energy storage. Projects are required to interconnect into New York State and have a generation capacity that falls within the category of 20-25MW or 100MW or greater. The selected projects are expected to come online between 2021 and 2024, and winning bidders will be announced by the end of 2020.These solicitations encourage proposals that cost-effectively pair renewable energy with advanced energy storage technologies to help meet Governor Cuomo’s commitment to deploy 3GW of energy storage by 2030, up from 1.5GW by 2025.[Jules Scully]More: New York issues record-breaking solicitations for renewable energy
Trade group estimates U.S. solar capacity installations will top 19GW in 2020 FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Reuters:U.S. solar installations are expected to soar 43% this year, just shy of a pre-pandemic forecast, as the industry has recovered more quickly than expected from a virus-related slowdown, according to a report by the top solar trade group.The improved outlook reflects robust demand from utilities seeking to meet carbon-reduction goals and a rebound in demand for home solar systems, thanks in part to declining costs for the technology.The sector is now expected to install more than 19 gigawatts of solar this year, enough to power more than 3.6 million homes, according to the U.S. Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and energy research firm Wood Mackenzie. Last year it installed 13.3 GW of capacity.Solar energy also accounted for 43% of new U.S. power capacity additions through the third quarter, compared with less than a third for wind and natural gas.The solar industry has been growing rapidly in recent years thanks to declines in the cost of the technology that enable it to compete with power generated by coal and gas. Even so, just 3% of U.S. electricity is now generated by the sun. SEIA hopes that will rise to 20% over the next decade.New project announcements from U.S. utilities during the quarter prompted SEIA to revise its installation forecast for 2021 to 2025 upward by 10 GW to 107 GW.[Nichola Groom]More: U.S. solar industry surges despite pandemic fallout, study finds
EarthTalkTMFrom the Editors of E/The Environmental MagazineDear EarthTalk: What are these “ocean deserts” I’ve been hearing about? Also, didn’t I read that there was a huge mass of plastic bottles floating around somewhere on the ocean surface?— Wally Mattson, Eugene, ORSo-called “ocean deserts” or “dead zones” are oxygen-starved (or “hypoxic”) areas of the ocean. They can occur naturally, or be caused by an excess of nitrogen from agricultural fertilizers, sewage effluent and/or emissions from factories, trucks and automobiles. The nitrogen acts as a nutrient that, in turn, triggers an explosion of algae or plankton, which in turn deplete the water’s oxygen.According to the Ocean Conservancy, a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico—where the Mississippi River dumps untold gallons of polluted water every second—has expanded to over 18,000 square kilometers in the last decade. Many other such dead zones have also undergone rapid expansion in recent years.A recent study by German oceanographer Lothar Stramma and a team of prominent international researchers confirms this phenomenon and also points the finger at global warming. Their data show that oxygen levels hundreds of feet below the ocean surface have declined over the past 50 years around the world, most likely a result of human activity. And as ocean waters warm due to climate change, they retain less oxygen. Furthermore, warmer upper layers of water stifle the process that brings nutrients up from colder, deeper parts of the ocean to feed a wide range of surface-dwelling marine wildlife.The expansion of these dead zones is bad news for most marine inhabitants and the ecosystems they thrive in. Thousands of different species already stressed from over fishing and other threats, now must contend with expanding hypoxic areas throughout regions that once constituted healthy habitat.The accumulation of plastic debris and other trash in the ocean is not necessarily related to hypoxic zones, but is yet another major problem facing the world’s fragile marine ecosystems. California-based sea captain and ocean researcher Charles Moore discovered what is now known as the Eastern Garbage Patch—an aggregation of plastic and other marine debris occupying some 700,000 square kilometers in the North Pacific Ocean—during a crossing of the North Pacific in 1997. In a 2003 article in Natural History Magazine, Moore reported being astounded that he couldn’t be further from land anywhere on Earth yet he could see plastic bags and other debris coating the ocean’s surface as far as the eye could see.Individuals can help the oceans and their inhabitants by making smart daily choices that can have collective, positive impact. Lowering your carbon footprint—driving less, biking more, donning a sweater instead of turning up the heat—is one way to help stem the spread of hypoxic zones, which is directly related to industrial activity and the amount of greenhouse gases we spew into the atmosphere.And limiting plastic and plastic bag use is the best way to prevent such litter from ending up swirling around mid-ocean. Some countries, such as China, and many large cities—San Francisco, for example—have banned plastic grocery bags. If your city hasn’t yet taken this step, pressure them to do so—and in the meantime bring your own reusable bags to the market and avoid plastic wherever else you can.CONTACTS: Ocean Conservancy, Natural History Magazine.Dear EarthTalk: I’ve followed the trends in “eco-homes” now for many years. Are there equally encouraging things happening in the world of condos? — Charlie Anderson, Seattle, WABelieve it or not, condominiums may be some of the most environmentally responsible housing out there today, especially since more and more developers are paying attention to sustainability from the get-go.By their very nature, many condo complexes adhere to some of the most basic tenets of green housing: density, to maximize surrounding open space and minimize buildings’ physical and operational footprints; proximity to mass transit, given their typical location in urban areas; and reduced resource use per unit, thanks to shared systems, walls and common spaces. Builders can elect to layer on other green elements, such as high-efficiency appliances and HVAC systems, green roofs and organic landscaping.“Projects are embracing green [to] be more responsive to what the buying public is looking for,” says Gail Vittori, chairperson of the U.S. Green Building Council, which produced and manages the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) design and building standards. “They also want to have the built environment become much more in line with environmental and health considerations.”One example is Florence Lofts, a new development of 12 townhouses and a 4,200 square foot commercial building in downtown Sebastopol, California. The LEED-certified project features a photovoltaic solar system on the roof for hot water and other electrical needs, a commercial scale “gray water” system to divert sink and shower water for irrigation purposes, and a tank that collects storm water from roofs to prevent excessive run-off.Another example is The Riverhouse overlooking the Hudson River in New York City’s Battery Park district. The LEED-certified, 320-unit building—the new home of actor/environmentalist Leo DiCaprio—has geothermal heating and cooling, twice-filtered air, non-toxic paint, and landscaped roof gardens.But not all developers need to break the bank to go green on their condo and apartment projects. Two-thirds of the units in Harlem’s much-publicized 1400 Fifth Avenue building—touted as New York’s first green condominium, are considered affordable, priced at $50,000 to $104,000 and restricted to families of moderate income. Also in the New York metropolitan area, Habitat for Humanity recently announced it has assembled a green design team to build “real affordable condos” in New Rochelle and other parts of Westchester County.“If you’re doing a moderately green building, the premium to build is typically in the 1.5 to two percent range. It’s very small,” says Leanne Tobias of Malachite LLC, a Maryland-based green real estate consulting firm. Additionally, the carrying costs for green units are lower, since such buildings operate on less energy and water and generate less waste than conventional high-rises. “All of those will be savings every month for the homeowners or residents of those buildings,” Vittori adds. “That’s a big plus.”CONTACTS: U.S. Green Building Council, Habitat for Humanity, Malachite LLC——–GOT AN ENVIRONMENTAL QUESTION? Send it to: EarthTalk, c/o E/The Environmental Magazine, P.O. Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881; submit it at: www.emagazine.com/earthtalk/thisweek/, or e-mail: earthtalk [at] emagazine.com. Read past columns at: www.emagazine.com/earthtalk/archives.php.
The Parkway is full of expansive views, cultural waypoints, and natural wonders. Once you’ve reviewed our guide, hit the road and check out this list of the highlights.View Blue Ridge Parkway in a larger map1. Humpback Rocks (MP 5.9) Take an easy walk through a restored 1890s farmstead, then walk a mile to the cliffs with views of Rockfish and Shenandoah Valleys.2. White Rock Falls Trail (MP 18.5) A mile walk leads you to a creek with swimming holes and eventually a 35-foot waterfall.3. Otter Creek Campground (MP 60.8) A great place to rest and camp. There’s also a restaurant and Otter Lake, which offers fishing.4. James River (MP 64) The low point on the Parkway (650 feet), the river also marks the beginning of the longest sustained climb on the Parkway.5. Apple Orchard Mountain (MP 76.5) This is Virginia’s Parkway high point at 3,950 feet, offering stellar views.6. Sunset Field Overlook (MP 78.4) Take a 1.2-mile trail to Apple Orchard Falls, a 200-foot cascade.7. Peaks of Otter (MP 85.9) Peaks of Otter features Abbott Lake with three dramatic peaks as a backdrop. There’s also a spiffy lodge, restaurant, and a historic farm.8. Roanoke Valley Overlook (MP 129.6) Pull over for a big view of Roanoke, the largest city adjacent to the Parkway.9. Floyd, Va. (MP 160.9) Take Va. 615 for a trip to this mountain town.10. Mabry Mill (MP 176.1) The restored mill highlights rural life in Appalachia (there’s even a whiskey still) while also serving pancakes that cyclists rave about.11. Meadows of Dan (MP 177.7) A mountain community sitting on the Parkway, MOD is part of the Crooked Road music trail, and has its own fudge factory.12. Groundhog Mountain Overlook (MP 188.8) The 360-degree view from this observation tower is one of the best on the entire Parkway.13. Blue Ridge Music Center (MP 213) This brand new outdoor stage hosts regular old-time and bluegrass concerts.14. State Line (MP 216.9) Welcome to North Carolina.15. Doughton Park (MP 238) 5,000 acres of public land, 30 miles of hiking trails, camping, and restored historic mountain cabins.16. Mountain Music Jamboree (MP 261) Friday and Saturday nights, this hall has live music and square dancing.17. Blowing Rock (MP 291) Bike shop, cafes, B&Bs, wine…everything you need just off the Parkway in this picturesque, small mountain town.18. Linn Cove Viaduct (MP 304.4) Hanging on the flanks of Grandfather Mountain, this is one of the most beautiful and expensive bridges in the country.19. Grandfather Mountain (MP 305) Take US 221 south of the Parkway to hike this gnarly knob. Hiking the mile-high bridge is a must.20. Linville Falls (MP 316.3) An easy trail leads to an overlook of this dramatic waterfall that marks the beginning of the even more dramatic Linville Gorge.21. Orchard at Altapass (MP 330) This century-old apple orchard has evolved into an Appalachian Cultural Center with live music and storytelling. The ice cream is good too.22. Little Switzerland (MP 334) If you’re looking to splurge, consider a night in the Switzerland Inn, the swankiest digs on the Parkway, and the epicenter of this tiny town.23. Crabtree Falls (MP 339.5) A two-mile loop takes you to this 70-footer just beyond a cozy campground.24. Mount Mitchell State Park (MP 355.4) Take the spur road five miles to the top of Mount Mitchell (6,684 feet). It’s a burly climb, but you’ll have ridden to the highest mountain east of the Mississippi. Camping and a restaurant too.25. Craggy Gardens (MP 364.4) Catch the blooming rhodo in June at the gardens, or hike 1.5-miles roundtrip and enjoy the view all season long from the Craggy Pinnacle, elevation 5,892 feet.26. Southern Highland Folk Art Center (MP 382) A showcase of traditional and contemporary crafts associated with the Southern Appalachians.27. Asheville (MP 388.5) Take US 25 into Asheville (see Side Show).28. Pisgah Inn (MP 408.6) The lodge sits on the edge of Mount Pisgah. Crash for the night, hike to Mount Pisgah, or grab some grub and enjoy the view.29. Looking Glass Rock Overlook (MP 417) This view of the 3,969-foot granite monolith is one of the most picturesque along the Parkway.30. Graveyard Fields (MP 418.8) Camping, swimming holes, waterfalls, berry-picking, hiking—this high-elevation valley is a destination all on its own.31. Richland Balsam Overlook (MP 431.4) At 6,053 feet, this is the high point on the Parkway, with the expansive view to prove it.32. Waterrock Knob (MP 451.2) Take the 1.2-mile round trip hike to the top of the Southern Sixer for a panorama of the Smokies. At the visitor’s center, you’ve also completed the steepest climb on the Parkway.33. Parkway Terminus (MP 469.1) This is the end of your trip. Check out the Museum of the Cherokee Indian nearby.
Several veteran Republicans gathered last week to discuss dismantling the Obama administration’s climate policies and replacing them with a carbon tax. The proposed tax would start at $40 per ton and would be returned to all Americans in the form of Social Security check.Economists and climate change scientists have been suggesting a carbon tax for years. The idea could face quite a battle ahead considering President Trump’s plans to ramp up extraction of fossil fuels.A member of the newly formed Climate Leadership Council described aspects of the carbon tax that they hope Republicans and the Trump administration will support: “It is a good proposal, it’s simple, its conservative, its free market, it’s limited government,” said James Baker in an interview with The Washington Post. Baker served as Secretary of the Treasury under former President Ronald Reagan.The plan has been supported by many respected Republicans, including Mitt Romney and Henry Paulson. A carbon tax as such could give green energies a boost in sales if U.S. industries start to look for other means of power to avoid the tax. The Climate Leadership Council estimate that the average American family could receive $2,000 each year in dividends.Read more here.
Craft Beer’s the Thing, Local Wine Too!Vines as in acres of gorgeous local grapevines—and the award-winning wine they produceBines as in locally grown hops, the ingredient used to create that distinctive bitterness and a variety of flavors and aromas in delicious local craft beers.DuCard Vineyards and Bald Top Brewing, two outstanding local producers, are collaborating all weekend to offer special tastings, live music, tours, food trucks and more at both their locations. And to celebrate the good luck that it all happens to rhyme. Learn more about the event here.DuCard Vineyards borders Shenandoah National Park out the back patio, and is Virginia’s “Greenest Winery” for its environmental stewardship, solar power and sustainability. You can even recharge your Tesla or other electric cars on site. It’s the #1 top rated winery in Central Virginia on Trip Advisor and features Gold Medal winning wines, both red and white.Bald Top Brewing is Virginia’s first historic ‘farm brewery,’ located (you guessed it) on a hilltop with rows of hops on one side and vistas of farms and fields on the other. Having just completed its first year of operations, it has already developed a reputation for good times, with awards for its creative beers.The two tasting rooms are only 20 minutes apart, with Shenandoah National Park’s beautiful White Oak Canyon Falls trail (two miles to cooling waterfalls) right in the middle—for those who want to walk it off a bit during the day’s tastings. Both locations will offer samples from both producers. And customers who visit both facilities will receive a discounted tasting fee, special discounts on take-home growlers and wine bottles, plus the limited edition and highly collectible Vines & Bines t-shirtHours for the event are Friday 12-9 at DuCard (4-9 at Bald Top), and at both locations Saturday 12-8 and Sunday 12-6. A wide range of great local Bed & Breakfast and country inns is available.