FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Tom Lutey for the Casper Star Tribune:The $405 million Tongue River Railroad is the latest casualty of the crashing coal economy. The federal Surface Transportation Board published its unanimous decision Tuesday to kill the coal railroad given the recent bankruptcy of Arch Coal.Arch was to develop the Otter Creek Mine south of Ashland, Montana — not far from the Wyoming border — which the railroad was to serve. In March, Arch suspended its environmental permitting application to Montana’s Department of Environmental Quality.“At this time, there appears to be little prospect that Otter Creek Coal’s mine permit will be secured in the foreseeable future,” the STB concluded. “Otter Creek Coal and its parent, Arch, have both filed for bankruptcy, and Otter Creek Coal has suspended its application for an MDEQ mining permit indefinitely.”The Otter Creek Mine had been in the works since 2010, when Arch Coal agreed to pay Montana $85.84 million for the development rights to 14 state-owned coal parcels in southeast Montana’s Otter Creek Valley. At the time, Arch Coal representatives said they would break ground at the mine in five years and be in full production by 2016.Arch partnered in the Tongue River Railroad Co. with BNSF Railway and TRRC Financing, a limited liability company.Neighbors who have battled Otter Creek Mine for decades weren’t ruling out another mine proposal resurfacing at some point.“I’m a little hesitant to say it’s over, because for 30 years it hasn’t been over,” said Clint McRae, a rancher and member of Northern Plains Resource Council.Federal panel kills Tongue River Railroad Federal Board Denies Bankrupt Arch Coal’s Rail Expansion Project in Montana
U.S. Utility With Millions of Customers: ‘It’s All Wind and Solar’ FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享GreenTech Media:When Charles Patton joined American Electric Power in 2000, around 90 percent of the company’s electricity production came from coal. Since then, AEP’s executive vice president of external affairs says things have changed dramatically.“I will confess, there was a time I wouldn’t have publicly stated — although in the last few years I have publicly stated that I was wrong — that you would be able to [interconnect] renewables to the extent that we’ve been able to,” said Patton, speaking Tuesday at Greentech Media’s inaugural Power & Renewables Summit in Austin, Texas. “If you were a utility guy…that wasn’t something you necessarily believed was possible to the degree it is today.”AEP isn’t traditionally thought of as the most environmentally friendly utility, but that reputation is changing — marking arguably one of the most significant endorsements of clean energy technologies to date.In 2005, coal made up 70 percent of AEP’s generation capacity — which is how the utility measures its electricity mix today. Since then, coal’s share of capacity has dropped to 47 percent. At the same time, AEP’s natural gas capacity increased from 19 percent in 2005 to 27 percent today, and renewables entered the scene in a meaningful way, growing from 4 percent in 2005 to 13 percent today.Renewable energy is now slated to make up the vast majority of AEP’s planned generation additions over the next decade. In AEP’s third-quarter 2017 earnings report, the utility said it plans to add another 8,360 megawatts of wind and solar through 2030 across its regulated and deregulated businesses — and that doesn’t even include the 2,000-megawatt Wind Catcher project, which could become the largest wind project in North America.AEP currently operates more than 224,000 miles of distribution lines in 11 states that deliver power to nearly 5.4 million regulated customers. It has approximately 33 gigawatts of generating capacity, 4.2 gigawatts of which is renewable energy.AEP was also the first utility to test a sodium sulfur battery at utility-scale in the mid-2000s. More recently the utility has tested community energy storage pilots in Ohio and invested $5 million in energy storage software provider Greensmith.Last week, AEP announced it plans to boost its renewable energy investments to $1.8 billion over the next three years, $1.3 billion of which will be for competitive, contracted renewable projects. The remaining $500 million will be invested in renewable energy projects in regulated states. These planned investments do not include the $4.5 billion Wind Catcher project in Oklahoma, which is subject to regulatory approvals in 2018.“To think a utility that was at one time the largest coal-burning utility in the Western hemisphere, that that’s where our focus is,” Patton said, remarking on AEP’s strong embrace of clean energy. “We don’t even have gas on the horizon; it’s all wind and solar.”Overall, AEP plans to invest $18.2 billion in capital from 2018 through 2020, with 72 percent of that focused on its transmission and distribution operations. “Today, we are solely focused on making the right investments to be the energy company of the future including modern, smarter infrastructure; advanced technologies; and cleaner generation,” said Nicholas Akins, AEP’s chairman, president and CEO, in a statement.More: AEP Exec: The Future for Coal Power Is ‘Very Limited’
‘Marshall Plan’ for Puerto Rico Outlines Modernization Strategy for Shattered Grid FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Washington Post:Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) will unveil an ambitious $146 billion Puerto Rico recovery plan he says will allow renewable power sources such as solar and wind to provide about 70 percent of the island’s energy needs within the decade.The bill, which has the backing of San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, also calls on Congress to consider retiring Puerto Rico’s debt and would give the island billions in additional federal funding for transportation, health care and education in the hopes of stemming a feared mass exodus to the mainland. It would also allocate funds to the Virgin Islands, which were similarly devastated by Hurricane Maria.“This is the closest we have to a Marshall Plan for Puerto Rico,” said Ramón Luis Nieves, a former member of the Senate of Puerto Rico who has testified to Congress about the hurricane’s impacts.Sanders’s bill is highly unlikely to get a vote in Congress and is more generous even than the $94 billion requested by Ricardo Rosselló, Puerto Rico’s governor.Sanders’s bill would give $62 billion to help the cash-strapped Puerto Rican government; $51 billion for economic development; $27 billion for infrastructure, including new energy infrastructure; and billions more for education and environmental remediation.The Trump administration has requested $29 billion in emergency natural disaster funding to be shared between Puerto Rico, Florida, and Texas — but only a fraction is designated for Puerto Rico. That package is expected to pass.“More than two months after Hurricane Maria, in the wealthiest nation in the history of the world, most of the homes in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are still without electricity. This is beyond belief,” Sanders said. “Congress must work with the people of Puerto Rico to fundamentally transform its expensive, antiquated and unreliable system.”Puerto Rico’s energy grid is maintained by the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), which has come under fire for what critics have called its slow and ineffectual response to the hurricane. PREPA drew congressional scrutiny for awarding a no-bid $300 million contract to Whitefish, a small Montana firm. PREPA, which filed, in effect, for bankruptcy last July, is the sole provider of electricity for the 1.5 million residents.Sanders’s bill, which would put $13 billion into rebuilding the electrical grids in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, would bring the debate about privatizing PREPA to a head. The measure explicitly prohibits public infrastructure receiving federal aid, such as the electrical grid, from being transferred to private ownership.Sanders’ bill would set aside $428 million in grants for homeowners and cities for solar panels and microturbines and more than $40 million for grants to improve home energy efficiency.“The case for renewables is that it’s the cheapest way to do it, and certainly the cheapest in the island’s isolated communities,” said Steven Kyle, an economist at Cornell University who has reviewed Sanders’s bill. “Since they’re starting from zero, they have a unique opportunity here.”Most engineers estimate that Puerto Rico could get up to 50 percent of its energy from renewable sources within the decade, according to Sergio Marxuach, public policy director at Center for a New Economy, a nonpartisan think tank on the island territory. “Seventy percent is definitely on the upper bound of what’s possible,” Marxuach said. “But, sure, if you throw enough money at a problem, you can do a lot of things.”Experts have emphasized that the federal government should not simply replace Puerto Rico’s old grid with a new one similarly exposed to catastrophic storms.A senior White House official told Reuters that the administration does not support rebuilding the original vulnerable grid. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, has backed rebuilding Puerto Rico’s electrical systems with microgrids or through distributed energy — but the senator hasn’t yet introduced legislation for doing so, according to a spokesperson.“It’d be a phenomenal mistake to spend federal tax dollars rebuilding the polluting, expensive, decrepit grid,” said Judith Enck, who oversaw Puerto Rico as a regional administrator in the Environmental Protection Agency during President Obama’s administration. “My great fear is FEMA will reconstruct the old grid — and when the next hurricane hits, it will all come tumbling down again.”More: Bernie Sanders to unveil a $146 billion ‘Marshall Plan’ for Puerto Rico
FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Reuters:LONDON—A survey of 30 fund managers with collectively more than 13 trillion pounds ($18 trillion) in assets under management shows that 89 percent think climate change risks will impact oil company valuations “significantly” in the next five years.This represents a doubling on last year of fund managers who saw climate risks impacting oil firms in five yearsThe annual survey was carried out by the UK Sustainable Investment and Finance Association and the Climate Change CollaborationSixty-two percent see peak oil demand impacting valuations in five years and peak gas demand impacting valuations in 10 years.Some of the fund managers surveyed include BlackRock, Aviva Investors, Deutsche Asset Management, HSBC Global Asset Management and Schroders.More: Fund Managers Expect Climate Risks To Hit Oil Firm Valuations-Survey Fund Managers Say Oil Firm Valuations at Risk From Climate Change
FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享PV Magazine:The global PV market is forecast to see a 25% increase in new deployments this year, according to the Global Market Outlook for Solar Power published by SolarPower Europe.According to the Medium Scenario presented in the report, which the association sees as the most likely outcome, new global capacity additions will reach 128 GW this year, up from 102.4 GW in 2018. China is still expected to be the largest market with around 43 GW and the authors of the report claim that the Chinese government is now acting faster than previously anticipated with the restructuring of its incentive scheme for solar. They say that this could lead to sustained growth, despite the weak numbers for new solar deployments that have already been announced this year.Under the Medium Scenario, the U.S. and India are expected to install more than 10 GW this year — 11.8 GW and 12.9 GW, respectively. Europe is forecast to install approximately 20.4 GW of new solar in 2019, which would represent an 80% increase from the 11.3 GW the Old Continent added last year.“2018 was a unique year for the entire global solar industry, as we exceeded the magic installation mark of 100 GW per year for the first time, which led the solar power sector to grow to over 500 GW or 0.5 TW (terawatt),” says the association’s president, Christian Westermeier.SolarPower Europe’s Medium Scenario also envisages that global solar demand could grow by 12% year on year to 144 GW in 2020. In the following three years, new additions could reach 158 GW (+10%), 169 GW (+7%), and 180 GW (+6%), respectively. If those numbers are achieved, the world’s cumulative installed PV capacity would increase from around 600 GW at the end of this year to 900 GW in 2021, 1.1 TW in 2022 and about 1.3 TW by the end of 2023.More: Global cumulative PV capacity may reach 1.3 TW in 2023, SolarPower Europe says New report says installed solar capacity worldwide could hit 1.3TW by 2023
FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Bloomberg:The world’s fourth-largest pension pot — with about $1.9 trillion — is facing mounting calls to ditch fossil fuels.UniSuper, which manages A$85 billion ($56 billion) in retirement savings for university researchers and academics in Australia, on Wednesday faced protests demanding the fund scrap investments in companies that are undermining the goals of the Paris climate agreement. The protests took place at a UniSuper-sponsored Universities Australia event in Canberra and coincided with a full-page advertisement from campaigners in the Australian Financial Review.UniSuper “is directly undermining our work and our future by driving climate change through its continued funding of fossil fuels,” Florian Busch, who researches carbon dioxide absorption in plants at the Australian National University, said in a statement.Offices of Health Employees Superannuation Trust Australia, known as HESTA, a fund managing A$55 billion in retirement savings for health and community services workers, also faced demands to take more action on climate change. Protesters occupied the building’s entrance in Melbourne on Wednesday to pressure it to divest of fossil fuels.The demonstrations are adding to pressure on custodians of Australia’s A$2.95 trillion retirement savings to catch up to peers like Europe’s Stichting Pensioenfonds ABP in cutting exposure to high-emitting companies. Those calls have gained traction after the nation’s deadly wildfires heightened concerns about the impact of climate change. Australia’s pensions industry has largely resisted exiting a whole segment of the economy amid pressure to meet minimum return targets. While funds have lifted investment in renewable energy projects, they also believe that by maintaining positions in climate-change offenders they can pressure companies to start altering their practices.[Matthew Burgess]More: Pressure mounts on Australia pensions to drop fossil fuels Pressure mounts for Australian pension funds to divest fossil fuel holdings
NHPC, GEDCOL join forces to develop 500MW of floating solar in Indian state of Odisha FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享PTI:State-run hydro giant NHPC on Monday said it has inked a MoU with Green Energy Development Corporation of Odisha Limited (GEDCOL) to form a joint venture for developing floating solar energy projects in the state with initial capacity of 500 MW.“A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has been signed between NHPC Ltd and Green Energy Development Corporation of Odisha Ltd (GEDCOL) on July 20, 2020 through video conferencing,” a regulatory filing said.The two entities may collaborate and cooperate to form a joint venture company (JVC) to plan and develop techno-commercially feasible floating solar power projects of 500 MW in Odisha under UMREPPs (Ultra Mega Renewable Energy Power Parks) scheme of Ministry of New and Renewable Energy), in a phased manner, preferably in packages of 50 MW each, it said.The parties also agree to explore further potential of installing floating solar projects after joint identification in subsequent periods in Odisha, it added.More: NHPC, GEDCOL ink pact to develop floating solar power projects in Odisha
Xcel to convert 1,018MW Harrington coal plant in Texas to gas by 2025 FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享S&P Global Market Intelligence ($):Xcel Energy Inc. intends to convert its first coal-fired power plant in Texas — a 1,018-MW generating station — to run on natural gas, a plan in line with the investor-owned utility’s goal to cut emissions from its generation facilities 80% from 2005 levels by 2030 and be carbon-free by 2050.The switch from coal to natural gas at the Harrington Generating Station in Potter County, Texas, northeast of Amarillo, operated by Xcel Energy subsidiary Southwestern Public Service Co., is slated to occur by Jan. 1, 2025.Billed as “a practical and lower-cost option for helping the area attain higher federal clean air standards” in a Nov. 10 company press release, Xcel Energy said the move will also help Potter County lower its sulfur dioxide emissions. The three-unit plant is one of the largest sources of sulfur dioxide emissions in the county, the company said, adding that other options to reduce emissions while still fueling the units with coal made less sense due to high cost.The first of the three units at the plant began operating in 1976, with others added in 1978 and 1980. All were designed to burn both coal and natural gas, Xcel Energy said.In the statement, Xcel Energy – New Mexico, Texas President David Hudson noted that a gas-fired Harrington plant would fit better with a power generation portfolio that will see the addition of thousands of megawatts of wind capacity through 2021 because “gas-fired generation is easier to ramp up and down to complement our growing supply of clean wind energy.”In January, Southwestern Public Service said it would retire its 1,067-MW Tolk power plant in Lamb County, Texas, by the end of 2032. Once that happens, the Xcel Energy subsidiary will no longer have coal-fired resources in its portfolio.[Bridget Reed Morawski]More ($): Xcel Energy to convert oldest Texas coal plant to burn natural gas
Dear EarthTalk: I’ve noticed that bamboo is very trendy right now, apparently—in part—for environmental reasons. Can you enlighten? — Eric M., via e-mail Bamboo has a long history of economic and cultural significance, primarily in East Asia and South East Asia where it has been used for centuries for everything from building material to food to medicine. There are some 1,000 different species of bamboo growing in very diverse climates throughout the world, including the southeastern United States. Bamboo’s environmental benefits arise largely out of its ability to grow quickly—in some cases three to four feet per day—without the need for fertilizers, pesticides or much water. Bamboo also spreads easily with little or no care. In addition, a bamboo grove releases some 35 percent more oxygen into the air than a similar-sized stand of trees, and it matures (and can be replanted) within seven years (compared to 30-50 years for a stand of trees), helping to improve soil conditions and prevent erosion along the way. Bamboo is so fast-growing that it can yield 20 times more timber than trees on the same area. Today, heightened consumer environmental awareness has given sales of bamboo flooring, clothing, building materials and other items a huge boost. As an attractive and sturdy alternative to hardwood flooring, bamboo is tough to beat. According to Pacific Northwest green building supplier Ecohaus, bamboo—one of the firm’s top selling flooring options—is harder, more moisture resistant and more stable than even oak hardwoods. Ecohaus carries both the EcoTimber and Teragren brands of bamboo, and ships worldwide. Bamboo is also making waves in the clothing industry as an eco-chic and functional new fabric. Softer than cotton and with a texture more akin to silk or cashmere, bamboo clothes naturally draw moisture away from the skin, so it’s great for hot weather or for sweaty workouts. It also dries in about half the time as cotton clothing. Some critics point out that the process of converting bamboo to fabric can take a heavy environmental toll, with the most cost-effective and widespread method involving a harsh chemical-based hydrolysis-alkalization process followed by multi-phase bleaching. The Green Guide counters, though, that bamboo still has a much lower environmental impact than pesticide-laden conventional cotton and petroleum-derived nylon and polyester fabrics. Consumers interested in trying out bamboo clothing should look for the Bamboosa and EcoDesignz labels, two of the leaders in the fast-growing sector of green fashion. Bamboo is also making inroads into the paper industry, though there are fears that too fast a transition there would threaten ecologically diverse bamboo forests across Southeast Asia and elsewhere. The Earth Island Institute, among other groups concerned about forest loss due to paper consumption, would instead like to see more research into using agricultural waste to make paper instead of wood pulp or bamboo. Regardless, bamboo in all its forms might one day soon be one of the most important plants in the world. CONTACTS: Ecohaus, www.ecohaus.com; The Green Guide, www.thegreenguide.com; Bamboosa, www.bamboosa.com; EcoDesignz, www.ecodesignz.com; Earth Island Institute, www.earthisland.org. 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: [email protected] Read past columns at: www.emagazine.com/earthtalk/archives.php.
We celebrated an important milestone in our family last week: our kids ran their first race, a .6-mile family fun run tacked on to the end of the Bele Chere 5K in downtown Asheville. While my wife ran the 5K, I pinned the race numbers onto the kids’ shirts and guided them through a pre-race ritual that included touching our toes really fast and eating powdered donuts. As we prepped for our brutal .6-mile run, we watched the 5Kers cross the finish line in a flurry of sweat and heavy breathing. One teenager even threw up right in front of us.By the time the Family Fun Run race gun was fired, my kids were over it. Half way up the first and only hill, my daughter stopped running, looked at me and said, “I can’t do it, daddy!” My son didn’t even bother running up the hill. His mom carried him. But on the downhill, we gained some speed and my son started trying to catch other runners ahead of him while swinging his water bottle like a club. I’m not sure where the Road Runners Club of America comes down on bludgeoning other runners, but I was happy to see some enthusiasm on his part.We finished last, but to be fair, my kids were the youngest competitors in the race, unless you include that baby in the jogging stroller. But I don’t include that baby, because his dad did all the running for him. Cheater. And like their race medals said, “as long as you had fun, you won.”I’m honestly not sure if they had fun. There was a lot of crying, one downhill fall on asphalt, and a warning from a volunteer about short-cutting the course. But the medal they earned has given my son something else to wield like a barbarian, so the $8 race fee wasn’t a complete waste.