SACE Applauds Gulf Power’s Decision to Procure Additional Wind Energy

Earlier this week, Gulf Power filed a petition requesting that the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) approve an additional 94 megawatts of wind energy generation into its portfolio from the Kingfisher Wind farm in Oklahoma.

Gulf Power, a subsidiary of Southern Company and one of the smallest investor-owned electric utilities in Florida, is already the leading purchaser of wind energy in Florida. In January of this year, Gulf Power began delivering 178 megawatts of wind energy to its customers from the original Kingfisher Wind project. If this new request is approved, the utility will have a total of 272 megawatts of wind energy in its energy portfolio – enough to power 77,150 homes a year!

Read more…

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Solar For All Report Offers Solutions to Help Disadvantaged Southeastern Communities Harness the Sun

The Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) recently released a report entitled Solar For All: What Utilities Can Do Right Now to Bring Solar Within Reach for Everyday Folks. SACE supports the report, and we are working hard with SELC and other allies to help make solar more accessible for low-to-moderate income (LMI) families across the Southeast.

LMI utility customers in the Southeast have so far been underserved by the existing programs and businesses that help people harness clean solar energy. To solve this inequity, the Solar For All report calls for diverse financing options, investment in community solar projects, and leveraging existing funding sources to expand access to solar.

Financing, in particular, can play a big role in making solar available for everyone. While some solar installers provide rooftop leasing and power purchase agreements that mitigate upfront costs, these installers typically require a minimum credit score that excludes many LMI customers. A leading solution to the lack of LMI access to existing financing options is utility-sponsored on-bill financing, which allows customers to repay the cost of their solar installation through a charge on their monthly utility bills. On-bill financing is also a great solution for helping people make their homes more energy efficient, and could be combined with solar for an even bigger impact. Whether financing energy efficiency or solar installations, a critical feature of a fair and accessible on-bill financing program is to allow customers to qualify based on their utility bill payment history, rather than credit scores. LMI individuals often have better utility bill payment records than credit scores, and utility bill payment is a better indicator of default risk in an on-bill financing program anyway (and default rates have been extremely low).

Community solar is a great opportunity to expand access to solar in general, but particularly for LMI communities. In a previous report on community solar released by SELC, SACE, Sierra Club, and Appalachian Voices, we noted that about 75 percent of homes are unsuitable for rooftop solar due to structural, shading and other constraints. To make community solar work for LMI customers, the Solar For All report recommends creating a carve-out for LMI participation, avoiding upfront costs, allowing on-bill financing, reserving siting for underserved communities, incorporating job training, and taking advantage of additional savings opportunities, such as demand response.

Read more…

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Virginia forum seeks to make wind energy a reality in the state

Allie Brown (SACE), Bruce Burcat (Mid-Atlantic Renewable Energy Coalition), and Katherine Kollins (Southeastern Wind Coalition) discuss the regional situation for wind energy with AWEA's Andrew Gohn. Credit: JMU

Virginia has great potential for wind energy development. Recent advancements in wind turbine technology and reduced costs have now made wind energy economically feasible throughout Virginia. Over 7,000 megawatts of onshore wind potential may exist in Virginia. Additionally, the state has one of the best offshore wind resources in the country. Yet, wind energy remains an untapped resource in Virginia.

Last week, the American Wind Energy Association hosted a daylong forum at James Madison University (JMU) to discuss the pathway to making wind energy a reality. Participants discussed the benefits and challenges of Virginia’s potential for land-based and offshore wind industry. The forum was well attended with over 100 attendees, and included a diverse set of stakeholders from the nonprofit, utility, academic, and government sectors.

JMU could not have been a more fitting location to host the event. The university has a Center for Wind Energy, which provides educational, technical, and research opportunities to advance wind energy in the state. The Center even has a 10 kilowatt wind turbine on the JMU campus, which was spinning throughout the forum. The Center is highly engaged on moving the state towards a wind energy future and providing students with the proper training and education to be a key part of that future.

Read more…

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Guest Post: Peabody Coal’s Unprecedented Support for Climate Denial

This blog is a guest post reprinted with permission from NRDC. It was written by Aliya Haq whose work at NRDC focuses on developing and strengthening policies on climate change and clean energy at both the state and the federal level. The original blog can be viewed here.

Researchers recently confirmed that Peabody Energy, the world’s largest private-sector coal company, has been funding dozens of climate denial groups, including the “Dr. Evil” mastermind behind a number of vicious, over-the-top attacks against the Environmental Protection Agency and the Clean Power Plan. The latest revelations from Peabody’s bankruptcy court documents show the unprecedented extent to which big polluters like Peabody went to subvert climate action.

Peabody coal mining operations in Northeastern Arizona. Source: US National Archives

What does it look like when coal companies are secretly funding these kinds of groups? Two years ago, EPA was in the midst of writing the Clean Power Plan, the nation’s first carbon pollution limits on coal-fired power plants. At this time, newspaper ads appeared from an unknown entity that compared EPA to terrorists. The mysterious group that placed these ads emerged from a nondescript address on Vermont Ave in Washington DC, linked to Richard Berman. A year later, Berman surfaced again with more attacks on EPA’s Clean Power Plan, making histrionic claims about blackouts and economic devastation. Nicknamed “Dr. Evil” by 60 Minutes, Berman has said “you can either win ugly or lose pretty.” Berman prides himself on keeping his industry funders secret, so it’s particularly noteworthy to confirm that Peabody, a well-known opponent of the Clean Power Plan, is a Berman client.

Peabody Energy surreptitiously funded dozens of anti-climate-action groups well beyond Berman’s firm. The extensive reach of Peabody’s climate denial network appears to be unmatched by its coal industry peers. Within the last year, Peabody’s competitors Arch Coal and Alpha Natural Resources also filed for bankruptcy, and their filings show roughly eight connections to groups or individuals fighting against climate action, while Peabody’s filings show at least 50 connections. Some of the more notorious names on the list include:

Read more…

Tags: , , , , , ,

EPA Moves Forward As Harvard Recognizes Billions of “Hidden” Clean Power Plan Benefits

Despite the setback delivered by the Supreme Court’s stay, action around the Clean Power Plan continues. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency’s historic regulation is on the verge of another public input period and is also the focus of a recent Harvard study.

What’s more, EPA has a new proposal out and an upcoming public comment period related to the voluntary early-action piece of the Clean Power Plan, known as the Clean Energy Incentive Program (CEIP). After hearing from stakeholders during a previous public comment period that ended in mid-December 2015, EPA has made some significant changes to the proposed CEIP. Most importantly, EPA has expanded the range of projects eligible for CEIP participation to include solar projects implemented to serve low-income communitiesRead more…

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

TVA to Demolish Alabama Coal Plant to Make Way for Google’s “Clean” Data Center

The Tennessee Valley Authority is ready to move ahead with plans to demolish its Widows Creek coal plant located in Stevenson, Alabama. In accordance with environmental regulations, TVA analyzed environmental impacts associated with various demolition and closure options and released its Final Environmental Impact Statement in early June.

TVA will use controlled explosions to raze Units 1-8 at the plant and will work to ensure all hazardous materials and potential safety hazards are removed. Demolition will begin in late 2017, making way for the much heralded Google Data Center that will be built at the former coal plant site. Google announced its plans to build its 14th data center back in June 2015 and aims to power the facility with 100% renewable energy. The data center will provide 75-100 new full-time jobs and is a welcome economic development opportunity for northern Alabama.

Widow Creek’s coal ash, however, will stay in place – according to another recent TVA decision to close toxic coal ash impoundments at coal plants in Tennessee, Alabama and Kentucky. The 25 million cubic yards of coal ash currently stored on site will be capped in place, despite the fact that these impoundments are seeping toxic metals into the groundwater. Widows Creek’s coal ash impoundments already polluted surrounding water resources, when 10,000 gallons spilled into Widows Creek, a tributary of the Tennessee River, less than three weeks after the much larger and more infamous Kingston coal ash spill in December 2008.

SACE will continue to push TVA to remove coal ash from the Widows Creek site and move it to permanent, lined storage facilities that are better equipped to handle toxic waste. We look forward to seeing the site’s transition from dirty to clean energy and will continue to report on Google’s progress bringing clean energy jobs and infrastructure to the Southeast.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

How EPA’s Haze Rule Can Help Keep Our Air Clear

This blog was written by Mary Anne Hitt, Director of Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign. The original blog was published on May 20, 2016 and appeared here, on Huffington Post’s Green blog

The Environmental Protection Agency is currently taking comments on updates to the Regional Haze Rule. Click here and let EPA know that you want a stronger Regional Haze Rule to protect air quality in national parks and wilderness areas in the Southeast – including our nation’s most visited national park- The Great Smoky Mountains National Park. 

If our air isn’t clean, our communities can’t be healthy.

I grew up just outside Gatlinburg, Tennessee, the gateway community to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, where my dad worked as the chief scientist. Growing up in the Smokies, clean air was essential to the health of the national park, visitors and local residents, and the economy. But on some summer days growing up, although you were in one of our nation’s crown jewel national parks, it was unhealthy to go on a hike, and you couldn’t see the next ridgeline, due to air pollution. Much of that pollution was coming from old, outdated coal-fired power plants nearby.

We weren’t alone – national parks and other special places around the country suffer from high rates of air pollution worse on some days than the pollution in our biggest cities. Why are our parks and communities suffering from this pollution?

Read more…

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Two leading sources of dehydration team up to save water! (HINT: One’s beer.)

Abita Brewing Company believes in "green" brewing

This is the fifth post in our Green Spirit Awards monthly blog series, highlighting breweries, wineries and distilleries in the Southeast using clean energy to create tasty, sustainable beverages. You can read the other blogs in this series by clicking here. Cheers! 

In a state famous (infamous?) for its fine spirits, drive through daiquiri shops, and some of the loosest liquor laws in the country, Louisiana’s reverence for a good local brew is admirable. If bumbling on Bourbon Street isn’t your cup of tea, just about an hour north of New Orleans, and across the 24-mile Lake Pontchartrain causeway, Abita Springs feels like a small oasis town sprung up in the middle of the swamp. The city’s namesake and local freshwater source, Abita Springs, has drawn humankind to travel to this particular corner of Louisiana for centuries. But chances are, if you find yourself in Abita Springs, you’re there to send your tastebuds on a hop-and-malt-laden journey at the Abita Brewing Company.

Read more…

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Will EPD cut Plant Washington slack – again – or finally cut it loose?

The saga of one of the last two proposed new conventional coal-fired power plants in the nation continued to approach its inevitable end this spring, as the air quality permit’s deadline to commence construction passed with no shovels in sight, and plant developer Power4Georgians (P4G) requested yet another extension.

If the state Environmental Protection Division (EPD) denies the extension, it could be the end of a long, long road that wasn’t wise to go down in the first place. And it would prevent any further waste of scarce agency resources.

Consumer and environmental groups have contended for years that Plant Washington was never financially viable, and would severely impact air, water, and climate. In a May 31 letter sent by the Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of SACE and allies, we urged EPD to deny the request for an extra 18 months to start construction. Without the extension, the plant’s air emission permit would expire. It could not be built without starting the permitting process over from scratch. Read more…

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Happy Global Wind Day!

Every year, June 15th marks Global Wind Day. Founded in 2009, WindEurope and the Global Wind Energy Council host events all around the world to promote wind power.

In the European Union, wind power provides just over 11% of all electricity. Here in the United States, about 5% of our electricity is generated from wind power, but that number is expected to grow rapidly. Over the next few years, the United States could double the amount of wind power generated. Several states already generate more than 25% of their electricity from wind power. Last year, the United States generated the most wind power electricity in the world.

Wind power is an American success story. Wind turbine component manufacturing or support facilities exist in all 50 states. Domestic content for wind farm projects is around 60%, meaning American jobs are helping build America’s domestic energy industry. In 2014, American companies exported about half a billion dollars worth of wind turbine components around the globe. A few major manufacturers here in the southern United States include General Electric’s turbine facility in Pensacola, Florida, Blade Dynamics in New Orleans, ZF Windpower in Georgia, PPG Industries in North Carolina, and LM Blades in Little Rock, just to name a few.

Read more…

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,