May 25, 2018
The sights and sounds of wind turbines are now a regular part of life on Brazil's Atlantic coast, bringing an economic boost and also raising concerns about changes to the natural landscape. The region is unusually windy, making this a natural destination for the wind industry. But it does not have much of the grid infrastructure needed for new power systems, which increases the costs for new investors.
With electric vehicle sales projected to climb, automakers are looking ahead to whether there is enough cobalt—a key component in batteries—to meet anticipated needs. The Democratic Republic of Congo is the world's leading supplier of cobalt, and there are reasons to be concerned about whether the metal will be available, and whether it is being mined ethically.
May 23, 2018
The future of wind power in North Carolina may be decided in the next couple of months by lawmakers who could decide to extend a state moratorium on new wind turbines that ends in December. The move would have implications beyond North Carolina.
China is having success with its push to get the public to buy electric vehicles. Six cities have imposed limits on gasoline cars, and those six now account for 40 percent of electric vehicle sales in the country, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Sales of electric vehicles in the cities—Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Tianjin, Hangzhou and Guangzhou—are increasing by two to four times the national average.
Half of the world's 10 largest solar farms under construction are in India, according to a new report by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA). India's embrace of super-size solar farms is helping to reduce the gap with China, which has just one project on the list. The United States has none of the top ten.
New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu has three bills on his desk dealing with alternative energy and each one is controversial. The first-term Republican needs to decide whether to sign an expansion of net metering eligibility for consumers with rooftop solar, something opposed by some in his party. The other two bills would provide financial support to power plants that use wood chips as fuel.
BP plans to invest $20 million in StoreDot, an Israeli startup that says it can charge lithium-ion batteries in 5 minutes. Officials for the oil giant say this is part of their plan to "be the fuel provider of choice—no matter what car our customers drive."
May 22, 2018
The Rural Energy for America, or REAP, program has survived an attempt to eliminate it in the U.S. House. The program provides grants and other aid to help farmers add renewable energy and improve energy efficiency. The House voted 340 to 74 to reject an amendment that would have scrapped the program, a margin that REAP's supporters hope is large enough to discourage future attempts to do this in the House and Senate.
Ameren has announced plans for a 400-megawatt wind farm in northwest Missouri, which would be the largest in the state. The St. Louis-based utility company says the project is part of a plan to build 700 megawatts of wind, with other sites yet to be selected. Northwest Missouri has become the state's hub for wind energy, and is just south of a part of Iowa that also is rich with wind resources.
Utility companies say they welcome California's new solar panel requirement, but they also face challenges in implementing the rules. The increase in distributed solar will lead to adjustments in how companies manage the power on the grid, and it will lead to a slight shift in costs to customers who do not generate their own power. Utilities everywhere will be closely watching both of those things, among many others.
Improvements in the fuel economy of the internal combustion engine will erode global oil consumption by 7.5 million barrels a day by 2040, according to a Bloomberg New Energy Finance report. That's even more than the 6.4 million barrel decline expected from electric vehicles.
Adding high-efficiency lighting is a great way to cut household electricity use, but there are barriers to doing so in high-poverty parts of the Detroit area, a study has found. University of Michigan researchers canvassed stores throughout the county that includes Detroit and found that high-efficiency bulbs were less likely to be available and were sold for higher prices in low-income neighborhoods.
May 21, 2018
A 500-megawatt solar farm is on track to be built on public land despite concerns from some environmentalists about the sensitivity of the area. The Interior Department says it plans to approve the project, which is located near Joshua Tree National Park. The proposal began its review during the Obama administration and has been working its way through the approval process under the Trump administration.
Michigan's two largest electricity utilities have agreed to increase the pace of their renewable energy growth in exchange for billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer agreeing not to pursue a ballot measure that would have required an even greater commitment. Consumers Energy and DTE say they will obtain 25 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2030, which is more than the 15 percent required by 2021 under current law. The ballot measure would have required 30 percent by 2030.
Ohio lawmakers say they would lift restrictions on placement of wind turbines, but it would be part of a bill that would weaken the state's requirements on renewable energy and energy efficiency. The inclusion of the wind energy provision is the latest twist in a long-running debate on a proposal that would make it easier for utility companies to meet clean energy standards. Read more from ICN about why Ohio lawmakers have turned against clean energy policies they once overwhelmingly supported.
Faith Community Church in Greensboro, North Carolina, is one of many small churches that are embracing solar as part of their ministry, in part to save money. The movement is part of a larger shift by churches to focus more on environmental stewardship. Read more from ICN about the Greensboro church's legal battle.
Iceland shows how a country can get all of its electricity from renewable sources, and raises the question of why others aren't doing the same thing. Several other countries are 99 percent renewable, often because they rely heavily on hydropower. These examples are in striking contrast to countries that are working toward much more modest national goals or haven't even set goals.
The Guwahati railway station in the capital city of Assam is India's first railway station to be fully solar powered. Indian Railways is the largest consumer of electricity and diesel in the country. The effort is part of the state-run network's plans to meet around 25 percent of its energy needs through renewables by 2025.
May 18, 2018
A planned solar farm in Kentucky is facing delays because of foot-dragging by a coal company that's years behind in cleaning up a nearby mine. The 100-megawatt solar project would be the largest ever in Kentucky. It's an example of how old coal mines can be reclaimed for renewable energy. The coal company, Kentucky Fuel, blames regulators for the delays and says it may resume cleanup sometime soon.
Consumers are growing more concerned about climate change and their role in it, according to a new survey of electric power buyers. They are also more willing to turn their concern about climate issues into decisions about what to buy and how to reduce their carbon footprint. These trends are positive signs for the planet, and for companies that sell renewable energy, energy storage and other products and services tied to conservation.
If solar and wind grow enough to make up 40 to 50 percent of U.S. electricity generation, wholesale power prices would decrease by as much as 25 percent, or up to $16 per megawatt-hour, according to a study by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
If a Virginia company succeeds in a legal challenge, it could open up the state's market to renewable energy developers wanting to supply small amounts of electricity to customers. English Biomass is arguing that it should be able to sign a deal to provide 25 percent of the college's electricity. The company is running up against an interpretation of state law that such contracts need to provide 100 percent. A court victory, while likely a longshot, would encourage competition and expand the amount of third-party renewables.
Tesla may need to raise $10 billion from capital markets by 2020 to fund its electric carmaking operations, cover maturing debt, finance new products and move forward with an expansion into China, according to a Goldman Sachs analyst. Tesla is struggling to meet production targets on its first mass-produced vehicle, the Model 3.
Tata Power plans to spend $5 billion on renewable energy, quadrupling the company's renewable energy capacity. Most of the new projects will be solar farms. Tata is one of the country's largest private power producers and has a fleet of coal-fired power plants. Before this announcement, most of the company's renewable energy growth had been through acquisitions.
May 16, 2018
A new report says offshore wind can be more cost effective than onshore turbines near major population centers along the East Coast, when considering the technology's full economic value. The first-of-its-kind analysis, from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, is another piece of evidence that offshore wind is coming into its own. Read more from ICN about America's first offshore wind farm in Rhode Island.
Researchers are hoping to be able to turn tidal energy into electricity with a project in the Cape Cod Canal. The system uses a platform that captures the motion of the tides and uses it to turn a turbine. By fall, a prototype should be in operation.
The Indian government wants to encourage construction of wind farms that share a location with solar farms, two technologies that can provide a near-steady flow of electricity when paired together. The new policy, which is in draft form, is well-suited to India, where many regions are rich in both wind and solar resources.
Britain's wind farms produced more electricity than its eight nuclear power plants in the first three months of the year, the first time this has happened across a quarter. Wind produced just under 19 percent of electricity overall. The milestone was reached as some officials claimed that changes in government policy have led to a collapse in new investment in renewables.
As Tesla deals with production delays and financial concerns, it's also reacting to news of a driver death in Switzerland, and a crash in Utah. Tesla CEO Elon Musk took to Twitter to say the news coverage was overblown. Meanwhile, the production concerns continue to mount, as a Morgan Stanley analyst said there may be structural problems with the Model 3 sedan.
May 15, 2018
A North Carolina environmental group that tried to challenge the state's utility monopoly by installing solar panels on the roof of a predominantly African-American church and selling the church cheap, clean power has lost its appeal to the state's highest court.