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June 7th, 2017 Archives

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Renewable Energy Push Is Strongest in the Reddest States


By JUSTIN GILLIS and NADJA POPOVICHJUNE 6, 2017

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The Smoky Hills Wind Farm outside Lincoln, Kan. Last year, Kansas generated more than 30 percent of its power from wind.

Credit Christopher Smith for The New York Times

Two years ago, Kansas repealed a law requiring that 20 percent of the state’s electric power come from renewable sources by 2020, seemingly a step backward on energy in a deeply conservative state.

Yet by the time the law was scrapped, it had become largely irrelevant. Kansas blew past that 20 percent target in 2014, and last year it generated more than 30 percent of its power from wind. The state may be the first in the country to hit 50 percent wind generation in a year or two, unless Iowa gets there first.

Some of the fastest progress on clean energy is occurring in states led by Republican governors and legislators, and states carried by Donald J. Trump in the presidential election.

The five states that get the largest percentage of their power from wind turbines — Iowa, Kansas, South Dakota, Oklahoma and North Dakota — all voted for Mr. Trump. So did Texas, which produces the most wind power in absolute terms. In fact, 69 percent of the wind power produced in the country comes from states that Mr. Trump carried in November.

Renewable energy that produces no carbon dioxide emissions is not solely a coastal, blue-state phenomenon. From Georgia to the Dakotas, business and political leaders are embracing clean energy sources even as the Trump administration pushes for more exploitation of oil, gas and coal.

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These red states are not motivated by a sudden desire to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Nor are they joining solidly Democratic New York, Washington and California in defending the Paris climate agreement that President Trump walked away from last week. Instead, their leaders see tapping the wind, and to a lesser degree the sun, as an economic strategy.

Red States Lead the Way on Wind

States won by Donald Trump in 2016 are shown in red, those won by Hillary Clinton in blue.

State Power generated from wind Total wind MWh (millions)
Iowa 37% 20.4
Kansas 31% 15.1
South Dakota 29% 3.2
Oklahoma 28% 21.4
North Dakota 23% 8.8
Minnesota 18% 10.9
Colorado 17% 9.3
Maine 16% 1.8
Vermont 16% 0.3
Idaho 14% 2.3
Texas 13% 61.0

Wind power generation estimates over 12 months, April 2016-March 2017. Mrs. Clinton won three of Maine’s four electoral votes in 2016. Source: Energy Information Administration

The New York Times

The clean energy push allows their utilities to lock in low power prices for decades, creates manufacturing jobs, puts steady money in the hands of farmers who host wind turbines, and lures big employers who want renewable power.

“We export lots of things, and in our future, I want us to export a lot of wind power,” Kansas’ conservative Republican governor, Sam Brownback, declared in a speech in 2011. “We need more of it, and we need more of it now.”

Mr. Brownback got what he wanted: Since he spoke, wind power production in Kansas has nearly tripled, and the state is now an exporter of clean electricity.

Whatever the motives, the push in the red states does help to lower emissions, which means their goals tacitly align with those of blue states worried about global warming.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/06/climate/renewable-energy-push-is-strongest-in-the-reddest-states.html?ref=energy-environment&_r=0

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Solar’s rise lifted these blue-collar workers. Now they’re worried about Trump

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By Danielle Paquette June 5

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Mike Catanzaro, panel installer at Accelerate Solar, finishes installed electrical wiring at a solar array he recently installed at a job site in East Charlotte. (Logan Cyrus for The Washington Post)

CHARLOTTE — Mike Catanzaro, a solar panel installer with a high school diploma, likes to work with his hands under the clear Carolina sky. That’s why he supported President Trump, a defender of blue-collar workers. But the 25-year-old sees Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement as a threat to his job.

“I’m a little nervous about it. The solar business is blowing up and that’s great for a lot of people around here,” Catanzaro said, just after switching on an 86-panel array atop a brick apartment building.

“I was in favor of Trump, which I might regret now,” he said. “I just don’t want solar to go down the wrong path.”

While some employed in particular industries have celebrated the U.S. exit from the Paris agreement, the responses of workers such as Catanzaro add a considerable wrinkle to Trump’s promises that scrapping the accords could save millions of people “trapped in poverty and joblessness.”

The more complicated truth, experts say, is that while there could well be some winners — such as workers in the coal industry — the Paris departure embodies the government’s abandonment of a suite of policies that promised to create hundreds of thousands of  jobs at the same time as fighting climate change.

About 370,000 people work for solar companies in the United States, with the majority of them employed in installations, according to the Department of Energy. More than 9,500 solar jobs have cropped up in North Carolina alone, the study found. That’s more than natural gas (2,181), coal (2,115) and oil generation of electric power (480) combined.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/06/05/solars-rise-in-north-carolina-lifted-blue-collar-workers-now-theyre-worried-about-trump/?utm_term=.309c8ec3c55a

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A Journey to the Center of the Solar Industry


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In this episode of the Interchange: We explore current turmoil, growth trajectories and the future of market design.

by Stephen Lacey

June 07, 2017


There are two stories playing out in solar today.

One of them is decidedly negative. The other is extraordinarily positive. And they're both unfolding at the exact same time.

The Interchange is brought to you by AES Energy Storage. AES is helping utilities harness the power of battery-based energy storage to make the electric power system cleaner, more flexible, and more reliable. Find out more.

In this week's podcast, we detail the different stories playing out in solar. We'll weave reflective conversation together with excerpts from Shayle's keynote address at last month's Solar Summit.

  • In part one, the brutal year for many businesses: Public solar companies are getting thrashed; module oversupply is causing severe financial pain for manufacturers; and even downstream companies who’ve benefited from cheaper equipment and growing demand have struggled. What does this tell us about the state of in the industry?
  • In part two, the macro trends: While the industry is in upheaval, the prospects could not be better for the technology. It’s one of the strange contradictions in solar. Where do we stand on the growth trajectory today?
  • In part three, preparing for explosive growth: How do you manage the coming wave of solar with better market design and integration techniques?
  • https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/a-journey-through-the-solar-industry
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Utility Execs See Distributed Energy as the Biggest Stress on Grid Reliability, Revenues

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Accenture report adds to the wealth of data on utility fears of DERs as grid and business model disruptors.

by Jeff St. John

June 06, 2017

The rise of distributed energy resources remains a worry for utility executives -- not just in how it erodes their revenues, but in how it affects their distribution grids.

This week, Accenture released a new report that asked more than 100 utility executives in 20 countries for their thoughts on the effects of distributed energy, and what steps they're taking to address the rapid-fire changes being wrought on the grid edge.

Just under three in five -- 59 percent -- said they’re expecting “small-scale/prosumer distributed generation to place greater stress on network hosting capacity” than any other part of their networks, through the rest of the decade.

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These trends will only accelerate over the next decade. Accenture estimates the costs of additional network reinforcement and automation required to manage distributed resources at $20 billion in the United States and €58 billion in Europe through 2030.

https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/utility-execs-see-distributed-energy-as-biggest-stress-on-grid-reliability

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China is now looking to California – not Trump – to help lead the fight against climate change

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AARON BERKOVICH

BY JESSICA MEYERS

June 6, 2017, 4:15 p.m.

Gov. Jerry Brown met with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday in a rare diplomatic coup that catapults California into quasi-national status as a negotiator with China following the decision last week by President Trump to pull the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord.

Their encounter underlined the extent to which Trump, as he pursues an “America first” foreign policy, is being sidelined on the world stage. Xi spent nearly an hour talking to Brown, one of the administration’s loudest, most powerful critics on the environment.

They discussed global warming and green technology in the Great Hall of the People, a granite-columned building on Tiananmen Square reserved for high-level dignitaries, political gatherings and ceremonial occasions.

“It’s highly significant that the governor of California can meet with the president of China and talk about the foremost issue of our time,” Brown said, sounding especially jovial on the third day of his weeklong China tour. “It’s very clear he welcomes an increased role on the part of California.”

Xi emphasized the state’s unique economic impact and encouraged California to promote ties on the local level in science, innovation and green development, according to a statement from China’s Foreign Ministry.

Brown started his trip with visits to the southern Chinese cities of Chengdu and Nanjing, where he repeated his grim warnings about climate change and signed agreements on clean energy.

Xi “has definitely given the green light for more collaboration between China and California and, I would say, other states through this subnational-level arrangement,” Brown said.

http://touch.latimes.com/#section/-1/article/p2p-93502558/

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Sonoma County, cities join Bloomberg-led climate action coalition

DEREK MOORE

THE PRESS DEMOCRAT | June 6, 2017, 4:19PM

A growing number of Sonoma County cities are signing on to a national coalition of governments, businesses and educational institutions formed to push back against President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from an international climate pact.

Santa Rosa on Tuesday night became the latest to join the “We Are Still In” movement, which is led by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and seeks to continue pressing for climate action at home and abroad.

“It seems to me a dereliction of duty when the most prosperous, most powerful nation on Earth turns its back on the international community’s nearly unanimous effort to preserve the planet for future generations,” Santa Rosa Mayor Chris Coursey said at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

Santa Rosa, Windsor, Petaluma and Sonoma County have signaled support for the Bloomberg coalition, as has the county’s Regional Climate Protection Authority. They join more than 100 cities, hundreds of businesses and universities and a handful of states around the country in backing the initiative.

Bloomberg, the U.N. secretary-general’s special envoy for cities and climate change, wrote in a letter announcing the group’s formation that while the executive branch can speak to its willingness to move forward on climate action, it cannot “determine the pace of progress achieved by U.S. cities, states, the private sector, and civil society. That freedom to lead is part-and-parcel of our federal system.”

Trump argued that the nonbinding Paris agreement, signed by more than 190 countries, was bad for the American economy and business.

But Sonoma County Supervisor Shirlee Zane, the board’s chairwoman, said the president’s decision to withdraw from the agreement “undermined a key pillar of the fight against climate change” — the global campaign to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Sonoma County, meanwhile, continues to add to the local initiatives meant to address climate change, Zane noted.

http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/7070978-181/sonoma-county-cities-join-bloomberg-led?artslide=0

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Nevada Just Became the Most Exciting State for Energy Storage Policy

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Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk / Flickr

Under new legislation, storage dispatched at peak times will count double for the RPS.

by Julian Spector

June 07, 2017

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Nevada jumped to the vanguard of energy storage policy after passing a revision to its state renewable energy targets.

In the past week, state legislators deputized the Public Utilities Commission to investigate whether it is in the public interest to require an energy storage procurement by utilities. The PUC has until October 1, 2018 to make that decision, based on a wide variety of criteria. That makes it the fourth state to set in motion a storage target, a policy that contributed significantly to the growth of the technology in California.

Nevada tucked even more goodies into a bill updating the state renewable portfolio standard. If Governor Brian Sandoval signs AB 206, it will raise the state's RPS from 25 percent renewable by 2025 to 40 percent by 2030. And storage will play a role that no state has thus far attempted.

Each kilowatt-hour of energy delivered by a qualified energy storage device will count double for the purposes of meeting the RPS requirement. There are two ways for a storage system to qualify: if it charges from renewable generation and discharges during a peak load period, or if it performs ancillary grid services that help integrate renewable generation.

"I am astounded at the amount of progress that Nevada legislators have made in such a short amount of time to catapult their state into the leadership of storage policy in the United States," said Jason Burwen, policy and advocacy director at the Energy Storage Association industry group.

The new policies leapfrog Nevada into the ranks of important storage markets like Arizona, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New York and Washington, behind the national leader, California, said Ravi Manghani, energy storage director at GTM Research.

Several of those states have passed storage targets, but the RPS bill takes storage policy in a whole new direction.

It casts storage devices as renewable energy assets that can deliver energy, along with solar, wind, and geothermal.

It also incentivizes storage specifically for peak capacity, so that systems will be inclined to discharge their energy at the time of greatest grid need. Alternatively, it rewards systems that provide valuable grid services like frequency regulation and voltage control, which keep the grid running smoothly as renewable penetration increases.

A typical mandate sets a gigawatt threshold for utilities to meet. That drives deployment on the metric of power capacity. Nevada's policy uses more sophisticated metrics, which could lead to outcomes more carefully tailored to the state's goals.

In a zero-sum view of the world, any RPS credits that go to storage are coming at the expense of renewable generators that could have had them. The bill offers storage a slice of the pie, but it also expands the pie so that everybody who qualifies gains in market size.

The bill also caps the role of energy storage at 10 percent of the electricity covered by the RPS, ensuring the vast majority of compliance will still take the form of generation.

What kind of market could this create for storage?

https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/nevada-just-became-the-most-exciting-state-for-energy-storage-policy

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Transfer threatens the American rancher’s way of life

Ranchers in the west have been struggling for decades. Now a new threat looms: public land might be taken away from them

  1. Cows, corrals and community: ranching in Montana – in pictures

by Elliott D Woods

If you want to appreciate the prairie landscape that inspired President Theodore Roosevelt to set aside 230m acres as national land, you have to pull off the interstate somewhere in the Dakotas, or in the eastern third of Montana, Wyoming, or Colorado. Follow a dirt road for a few miles, roll down your windows, and shut off your engine. Do this almost any time of day, preferably in springtime. Above and below ground, the prairies are humming with life: birds, rodents, snakes, pronghorn, badgers and coyotes, rioting amid a landscape of grass and sagebrush.

A patchwork of public land comprises large blocs of this splendid and sparsely populated terrain, and while much public ground has the appearance of a nature preserve, it is mostly a working landscape. Public forage, timber, and water resources sustain thriving wildlife populations, along with millions of livestock and thousands of agricultural producers. For these people and their communities, public land isn’t a destination on a bucket list, a recreational playground, or a studio for Instagrammers – it’s a source of life to which they’re intimately connected. That’s why many ranchers are unnerved by the Republican party’s land transfer agenda, which aims to give away as much federal public land as possible to the states. While the movement gains traction among the Republican cadre, its attractiveness to rural westerners is less certain, and if it ever succeeds, it will mean a radical restructuring of the foundations of the economy and the culture of the west.

There is a hardcore element within the growing land transfer movement, represented most garishly by the Bundy clan from the Mormon stronghold of Bunkerville, Nevada, who owe more than $1m in unpaid federal grazing fees, and who blackened the image of anyone with a cowboy hat when they staged an armed takeover of a national wildlife refuge in Oregon last year. The Bundys and their acolytes don’t believe the federal government has the right to own any land aside from military bases, but their militant, extremist position is a sideshow. The most powerful champions of land transfer wear business suits and woo industry and urban conservatives with a simple pitch: states understand their own resources better than the feds, and they’d do a better job of managing timber, livestock, petroleum, and mining leases for the benefit of the state economy and local communities.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jun/06/montana-land-transfer-american-ranchers

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Brown Looks To Lure Chinese Electric Car Companies


Tuesday, June 6, 2017 | Sacramento, CA | Permalink

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http://www.capradio.org/articles/2017/06/06/brown-looks-to-lure-chinese-electric-car-companies/

California Governor Jerry Brown is in China this week looking to strengthen ties in the fight against climate change. In reality that’s meant meetings heavy on formality and light on substance, which could open the way for more concrete agreements down the road. But the governor has a more specific goal, as well: Brown is pushing the Chinese to invest in batteries for California electric cars.

Brown spent his first three days in a blizzard of meetings. He met with heads of some of China’s most populous regions, national ministers and even Chinese President Xi Jinping.

But there’s no real discussion or negotiation in these talks. It’s more ceremonial.

Whether in Chengdu, Nanjing or Beijing, Brown and the Chinese official sit in the center of a plushly-carpeted conference room, with a small table between them. Flanked by an exactly equal number of staff, they air general statements about collaboration through translators.

"California has been a pioneer in the new mode of development. You have a lot for us to learn from," said Li Qiang, the Communist Party secretary in Jiangsu Province.

Brown and the Chinese official also exchanged gifts.

Brown was gifted a porcelain tea pot—with a history of more than 1,000 years, according to Qiang.

"Thank you," said Brown. "I like Chinese tea very much."

Devil's In The Details

The meetings often end with the signing of agreements to work together. They’re non-binding, which is typical—also true of the Paris agreement and Brown’s own climate change coalition of states and regions. But in an April conversation about those pacts, Yale University climate scientist Angel Hsu said that makes it hard to judge the effects.

"The devil again is always in the details. Whether they will be able to actually follow-through on their plans and then be able to report back," said Hsu.

So why do this trip? The governor’s office says it won’t know the cost until after, but you can bet Brown gallivanting halfway around the globe with a delegation of two dozen people—at the same time as he’s proposed slowing state spending—will be fodder for critics. (Brown spokesman Evan Westrup says taxpayers aren't on the hook. Consistent with previous international trips, he says, the non-profit California State Protocol Foundation will cover governor's office costs. The Energy Foundation is paying for staff from the California Air Resources Board and California Energy Commission.)

"How do you do anything when you have hundreds of millions of people? Billions?" Brown responded, suggesting it’s a necessary diplomatic step to open the way for concrete actions down the road. "You have to have some talk, you have to have some meetings, you have to have paper, you have to have scientists, then you need bureaucrats, then you need lawyers," says Brown.

Brown's One Specific Plea

In nearly all of his Chinese meetings, there is one area where the governor has made a specific plea.

"We need to join with Chinese companies to produce better batteries, more efficient batteries and more electric cars," says Brown.

California has a goal of putting 1.5 million electric cars on its roads by 2025, about six times the current number. But that’ll require less expensive batteries.

Yunshi Wang directs the China Center for Energy and Transportation at UC Davis, and he happened to be on our high-speed rail train from Nanjing to Beijing. Wang points to one immediate, practical implication for Chinese companies that want to compete in the U.S. market.

"They need a permit to invest in foreign countries, transfer money out," said Wang.

A Protective Umbrella

And now they can point to government statements to support those permits—a protective umbrella, you might say.

"When they invest their money in a foreign country, when it rains, they have something over their head, so they can say ‘I’m following the government’s agreement with them,’" said Wang.

Chinese technology minister Wan Gang may have opened the door for a Chinese company to bring that electric vehicle to California for the governor to sit in when he met with Brown Tuesday in Beijing.

"I hope that Governor Brown someday can sit in the EV we produce in California," Gang said.

On Wednesday, Governor Brown is holding a day-long meeting of state and regional leaders who have signed on to his climate change pact, the Under2 Coalition.

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to reflect additional information from the governor's office about how the trip is being paid for.


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