One EV Driver’s Three Year Report on Driving a Nissan Leaf

This is an expert post from a blog written by Steve O’Neil of Asheville, North Carolina. Steve is an advocate for clean, green, renewable energy technologies. 

We have been driving our 2012 Nissan Leaf for 3 and 1/2 years so it is time to report on this, our grand experiment, of owning and daily driving the planet’s first mass produced all electric vehicle – the Nissan Leaf.

Before we get into the report let’s look back over the last three years.

In my first report after purchasing the little blue electric car I outlined the adventure we experienced after purchasing the car and driving it across central and eastern Tennessee.  A couple of times during the entire ordeal I asked myself – was this a wise choice?  Was this a total mistake?  What have we done?!?! But after we made it home and I looked at how little it had cost us in electricity charges to cross Tennessee and how much I loved passing gas stations I realized that if we could adapt to the new vehicle it would save us thousands of dollars each year in fuel costs and that was just the cake – the very sweet free range organic icing was the list of environmental and health benefits offered to anyone who makes the switch to driving electric.

In my second report at three months and 6500 miles, we had settled into loving the little EV and had come to the realization that driving electric was truly a better way to drive.   As I reported at the end of the article;  “By buying the Leaf we have saved money (around $500), reduced our carbon footprint by eliminating almost 952.95* lbs of CO2 from being eliminated into the atmosphere, and gained a maintenance free car that is fun to drive and seems to be very well thought out and well constructed.” *To date we have saved almost 12,000 lbs of CO2 from being dumped into the atmosphere! Read more…

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Calling All Coast Lovers! Sign Up Today To Protect Our Coast From Offshore Drilling

Calling all coast lovers! Your help is needed in making May 20, 2017 the biggest ever day of action to show opposition to offshore drilling. The 8th annual Hands Across the Sand events will be taking place on Saturday, May 20 in communities all over the world to proclaim the simple message of “No to offshore drilling and dirty fossil fuels, and yes to clean energy.”

The event is simple: people gather at their local beach or other treasured place and at noon, everyone joins hands to form a line, a physical and metaphorical line in the sand, that demonstrates our desire to protect our treasured places from the impacts of offshore drilling and other risky fossil fuels.

For years, residents and businesses along the South Atlantic coast have pushed back on proposals for oil and gas development along our coastline. In 2016, we defeated efforts to open Atlantic drilling and conduct seismic airgun blasting to search for offshore oil and gas in the Atlantic. Now we must continue to demonstrate to our elected officials that our coast is not for sale.

We are hoping to have dozens of events take place in the Southeast, so would you consider hosting an event in your community? Hosting an event is easy and satisfying and there are lots of resources to help make it simple for you. Please sign up to host your event at HandsAcrossTheSand.org

Are you not feeling up to hosting an event, but want to join an already existing? If so, then sign up here on our “pledge to protect the coast from offshore drilling” form and we will email you with details on how to find your local event in advance of May 20.

We hope you will join us on the beach on May 20 as we stand with our neighbors to protect our coast.

 

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Black History Month Energy Leaders Blog Series: Bishop Carroll Johnson Stands Up for Solar in the Sunshine State

In honor of Black History Month, SACE is publishing a blog series highlighting the efforts of African American leaders that have played key roles in clean energy in the Southeast. This is the third post in the series. To read other posts in this series, go here

Bishop Carroll Johnson (middle) and local solar advocates stand up for solar in the Sunshine State in front of Orlando news crews. This event was part of series of statewide rallies, calling out the deceptive, utility-backed Amendment 1, which was rejected by Florida voters last November.

During the solar wars in the Sunshine State, Bishop Carroll Johnson joined the solar army from the sunny city of Orlando. From filming a video, to giving out our yard signs at his church, to hosting a press event with local solar enthusiasts, Bishop Johnson was always willing to jump in and help empower the Orlando community. We had a chance to catch up with Bishop Johnson to talk a little broader about clean energy, climate change and energy equity. Here’s what we talked about:

1. How does energy impact you?  Your family?  Your community?

As a family we are obviously dependent on our local utilities to provide power for our home and church and fuel for our vehicles at a price that is affordable and in ways that do not adversely affect our environment. Our constituents are mostly low income and middle class and as such spend an inordinate amount of their income to keep the lights on and have enough gasoline to make it through the week to work and run errands.

As a result they are very vulnerable to severe price peaks as a result of weather and market forces for fuel. For instance, in our Baltimore church a severe cold snap can cause a poorly insulated rental home to generate an electric bill that the renter will be unable to handle and subject them to losing their electricity during the harshest part of the winter. Read more…

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About 200 Georgians Met with Legislators Urging Passage of Critical Coal Ash Legislation

Georgians gather on the steps of the Capitol Building before entering to talk to legislators.

Yesterday, as about 200 Georgians gathered at the Capitol Building, State Representative Jeff Jones (R-Brunswick) filed legislation to address Georgia’s toxic coal ash pollution.

H.B. 387 requires utilities to submit a “major modification” to National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) water discharge permits before releasing coal ash wastewater into Georgia’s waterways.

H.B. 388 requires landfill owners to create a management plan if they receive or are planning to receive coal ash.

Community members from all across the state, including bus loads traveling from the coast and north Georgia, gathered in Atlanta for Capitol Conservation Day, an annual gathering organized by Georgia Water Coalition. SACE and these volunteer citizen lobbyists of all ages, led by staff of water coalition member groups, met with dozens of legislators to urge them to support H.B. 387 & 388 and State Senator William Ligon‘s (Republican – 3) S.B. 165, which ensures liability for coal ash remains with the original producers of the ash.

Read more…

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What does Toshiba’s financial meltdown mean for new nuclear reactor projects in U.S.?

This is first in a series of blogs about Toshiba’s financial meltdown and the implications this is having on new nuclear power plant projects. Today’s blog serves as an overview. 

Coverage of the still-unfolding financial meltdown of Japanese tech-mogul Toshiba has been growing since late December when the massive financial losses were first divulged. Toshiba’s much anticipated earnings report call yesterday, which was expected to shed light on the situation, was delayed with permission from Japanese regulators until March 14. Toshiba still reported extremely bad news, much larger losses than earlier predicted and the selling-off of key Toshiba assets, as the images below convey.

Toshiba Provisional Outlook FY2016 3Q, Slide 6. At http://www.toshiba.co.jp/about/ir/en/pr/pdf/tpr20170214.pdf.

 

 

Why does this matter to new nuclear reactor projects here in the U.S.? Toshiba owns Westinghouse, which is the designer and builder of the AP1000 reactor design, and Westinghouse’s nuclear losses are the cause of Toshiba’s woes. In fact, the four AP1000 reactors under construction here in the southeast — two at Georgia Power’s Plant Vogtle in Georgia (subsidiary of Southern Company) and two at SCE&G’s V.C. Summer (subsidiary of SCANA) nuclear plant in South Carolina — account for the over $6 billion in losses. In advance of SCANA’s earnings call tomorrow, the utility issued a press release announcing an additional 8-month delay to the project; estimated completion has shifted from August 2019 to April 2020 for Unit 2 and December 2020 for Unit 3. Originally the first new reactors for Vogtle and Summer were to be online by April 1, 2016 (April Fool’s Day) and the second ones by this April!

Other utilities in our region hoping to pursue building new AP1000 reactors one day were also dealt a harsh blow when Toshiba said Westinghouse was exiting the nuclear construction business. So FPL’s plans for more AP1000 reactors at their Turkey Point site near Miami, or Duke’s possible new reactors in South Carolina at the William States Lee site and the Levy County site in Florida, and Southern’s Stewart County site in Georgia are, in all practicality, no more. There is no longer a builder for these projects so even if those utilities still harbor nuclear aspirations, they’ll need to find someone else to build them.

Given the economic fallout of Toshiba’s demise due to new nuclear construction projects, those utilities will have to admit that the estimated costs of new reactors will be far, far costlier than they initially proposed to regulators and their customers. There is no way new nuclear reactors will be considered economical in comparison to other, lower cost, less risky alternatives. We outlined this in our final brief filed Monday with the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) in the 15th semi-annual Vogtle Construction Monitoring period, recommending the PSC investigate the Toshiba situation and alternatively, to halt the Vogtle project and consider lower cost alternatives. Read more…

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Jumbo’s Green Side: Sustainability at Tufts University

In this blog series, SACE staff evaluate college and university campuses investing in clean energy and sustainable practices. To read other posts in the series, go here.

Ivy-covered walls and tree-lined campuses are pretty much de rigueur at New England’s countless colleges and universities, so it takes more than landscaping to earn a ‘Green College’ label.  Half a century of environmental leadership coupled with ongoing efforts to green campus operations – from energy usage and infrastructure to food sourcing and academic offerings – have earned my undergraduate alma mater, Tufts University, a silver rating from the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS) and a green college ranking from the Princeton Review.  Here’s just a few ways Jumbos are striving towards sustainability (and a few more where there’s room for improvement).

[Wondering about "Jumbo" and that elephant statue? An early trustee of Tufts, P.T. Barnum of circus fame, donated both money and the taxidermied remains of the 19th century's most famous pachyderm, hence a famous elephant is our mascot. True story, look it up!] Read more…

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Do You Hear That? It’s The Fat Lady Singing; Nuclear Revival Ends Almost Before It Starts

Dennis Wamsted’s post, “Do You Hear That? It’s The Fat Lady Singing; Nuclear Revival Ends Almost Before It Starts,” originally ran in his blog, Wamsted on Energy: News and views for thinking professionals, on February 10, 2017. Find the original post here and more about Mr. Wamsted here. Published below with permission.

Five years ago almost to the day (Feb. 9, 2012, actually), the Nuclear Regulatory Commission voted 4-1 to issue a construction and operating license to Southern Company for the 2,234 megawatt Vogtle 3&4 project—the first of the new generation of reactors that was touted as the beginning of the industry’s long climb back from 30 years of dormancy.

At the time, Marvin Fertel, then president and CEO of the Nuclear Energy Institute, the industry’s trade association, sounded almost euphoric: “This is a historic day. [The NRC decision] sounds a clarion call to the world that the United States recognizes the importance of expanding nuclear energy….” Fertel’s optimism was hardly unique: A year earlier, Jim Miller, CEO of Southern Nuclear, the company’s operating subsidiary, told Scientific American: “The nuclear revival is under way in Georgia.”

My, how much has changed in just five years. Today, we are waiting for the other shoe to drop in the Westinghouse-Toshiba fiasco, which is expected later this month. When that happens it will serve as the end point of the revival that never really took place—five years from start to finish, not quite the long-running blockbuster the industry had hoped for.

There is plenty of blame to go around—the federal government’s incentives were poorly structured and created a rush to get in the door, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission probably didn’t have the funding or staff to effectively implement its new, much-touted licensing requirements, and the Fukushima Daiichi disaster in Japan certainly didn’t help—but at its heart this was a case of bad management and wishful thinking, by both Southern and Westinghouse. Read more…

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Wind Power’s Record Setting 2016: Will 2017 Be a Repeat?

SACE Renewable Energy Manager Simon Mahan contributed to this blogpost. 

A new market report by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) shows that 2016 was a record breaker for the wind industry. And signs are pointing to an equally aggressive 2017. With a total of 8,203 megawatts (MW) of wind energy capacity commissioned last year, the majority of projects were completed in the final three months. The United States now harnesses more than 82,000 MW of wind power. That’s enough power for the equivalent of roughly 25 million homes!

American Wind Energy Association: U.S. Wind Industry Fourth Quarter 2016 Market Report

Read more…

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First Wind Farm in North Carolina Takes Flight

North Carolina is now the 41st state with a large-scale wind farm!

North Carolina is nicknamed “First in Flight” because of the historic aeronautic experiments that occurred along the state’s breezy coast over a century ago. Now, North Carolina can tack on another windy first: Yesterday North Carolina’s first large-scale wind farm began generating electricity! The 208 MW Amazon Wind Farm U.S. East, which would generate enough energy to power 61,000 homes a year, will power an Amazon web services data center in nearby Virginia.

The 104 wind turbines are predominately located on agricultural land near Elizabeth City in the northeastern part of North Carolina. Land owners voluntarily agreed to wind turbine placements on their property and are compensated accordingly. But the wind farm doesn’t just benefit the landowners – it’s a $400 million capital investment in Pasquotank County, and the project is expected to generate $250,000 in property tax revenues in just 2017 alone. The wind developer, Avangrid (formally Iberdrola), is now the largest taxpayer in the two counties the turbines are located in.

SACE is excited about the opportunities modern wind farms can bring to our region. Over the past five years, staff have published reports, tracked proposed projects, and traveled to every state in the South to work with decision makers about these new opportunities. Now, the Amazon Wind Farm showcases what we’ve been saying for years: the South is the next frontier for wind energy development.

Read more…

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Black History Month Energy Leaders Blog Series: Nathaniel Smith Boosts “Energy Equity” in the American South

In honor of Black History Month, SACE is publishing a blog series highlighting the efforts of African American leaders who have played key roles in the energy sector. This is the second post of this series. To read other posts in this series, go here.

Smith (C) with Berneta Haynes of Georgia Watch (L) and Amelia Shenstone (R) at the 2016 Just Energy Summit. Click image for short video recap of the Summit.

Nathaniel Smith is founder and Chief Equity Officer (CEqO)of Atlanta-based Partnership for Southern Equity (PSE). SACE worked with PSE to initiate the Just Energy Circle in 2012 and remains an active partner, most recently helping put on the first annual Just Energy Summit. I sat down with Mr. Smith to learn more about the work he dubbed “energy equity” early on.

As an equity and justice advocate, why do you care about energy?

It’s about real-life experiences. We can talk about CO2 [carbon dioxide] emissions and climate change, but at the end of the day we’ve got kids in forgotten neighborhoods who get asthma as a result of the decisions we are making about energy. There are people who have been forced to choose between groceries and paying their light bill. There are folks who need workforce development as our economy shifts toward more renewable energy options. What is going to happen to these people and to our economy, and how will we stay competitive, if we don’t train these people for those jobs? Energy equity provides a unique opportunity for us to do good and do well.

Read more…

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