Solar energy future bright for Georgia

Credit: Creative Loafting, Joeff Davis

The solar industry has Georgia on their mind.

The Peach State is now the fastest growing solar market in the country with over 90 megawatts (MW) of solar installed in 2013. Recent findings from The Pew Charitable Trusts concluded that from 2009-2012, Georgia attracted $666 million in private clean energy investment. Over the next decade, Pew predicts that clean energy will contribute to an additional $4.4. billion in Georgia’s economy with solar leading the way.

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Something To Be Thankful For

This blog was written by SACE Communications Intern, Heather Brinton.

With the start of the holidays just around the corner, let’s take a minute to reflect on the progress that has been made in the energy field since the 20th century, and let’s pause to be thankful for clean energy options that are becoming more available and accessible to us everyday.

Kingston coal ash spill

Our society has been built on sweat and hard work of Americans making the best use of the energy available to them; our country thrived and grew exponentially on coal and oil in the 1900s. However, over time the repercussions of the excessive use of these harmful fuels have been revealed in events such as the Kingston coal ash spill, or more recently the coal ash spill into the Dan River. Fortunately we now have an opportunity to continue building our society using cleaner, more sustainable energy alternatives – and that is certainly something to celebrate this Thanksgiving. Read more…

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Buttoning Up Your Home Before Winter’s Worst

This post was co-written by Michele Wright, a San Diego based freelance copywriter and brand representative who works with multiple clients and marketing companies. She’s been freelance writing for 3 years and has written articles on a variety of business, marketing and finance topics. 

Now is the time. In fact, in many parts of the country, now is past the time. The time for what? For a serious examination of your home’s winter weather readiness. As temperatures drop–precipitously, sometimes–we can be caught unprepared for winter’s worst offerings. Before the cold air invades your home and spikes your utility bills, take some simple steps to review your level of preparation and make the needed changes before the mercury gets any lower. And at the same time, you can review your family’s behaviors to make sure that you aren’t undermining good investments with bad habits.

Here’s how to check out your home–and your routines.

Be Sensitive

There was a time when a draft was just a draft. You had a few spots in your home that you tried to avoid due to cold air that seemed to linger there. But today it’s much easier. New products are on the market that are tailor-made for common draft problems. They’re do-it-yourself friendly, meaning we can reject the idea that those cracks and gaps are just characteristics of an aging home. Read more…

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Kentucky Group Studies Health Effects of Aging TVA Coal Plant

Construction of TVA's Shawnee coal plant began in the 1950s.

This guest blog was written by Deborah Payne, MPH, Health Coordinator at the Kentucky Environmental Foundation (KEF). For more detail on KEF’s Shawnee Health Impacts Assessment, please register and attend a free webinar on November 20, 2014 at 11am ET. Download the full report here.

In 1957, the price of gas was just 24 cents a gallon, Elvis Presley purchased a mansion in Memphis and called it Graceland, and the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 2, the first rocket ship to carry an animal into space. It was in that same year that the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) finished construction on the Shawnee Fossil Plant, a coal-fired facility in western Kentucky built to provide energy to the United States Energy Corporation’s (USEC) uranium enrichment plant. Now, almost 56 years later, one year after the closure of the USEC plant and within the context of a rapidly changing energy market, TVA must decide what to do with two of its nine remaining units. Driven by a consent decree with EPA and environmental groups, the plant must either retrofit the units to meet new air quality standards or retire these units.

Read more…

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Clean, Distributed Energy Can Benefit Low-Income Families

This post, authored by Jorge Madrid and Marilynn Marsh-Robinson, originally appeared on Energy Exchange, a blog by Environmental Defense Fund, on November 17, 2014. You can view the original post here.

We’ve spent nearly 15 years collectively working on clean energy solutions for both rural and urban communities, often with under-resourced and underrepresented people at the front of our minds. One question, among many, that is consistently on the minds of elected officials and advocates alike is: How will clean energy policies affect low-income families and communities of color? This is a critical question to answer because low-income families, including a disproportionately large percentage of African Americans and Latinos, spend a greater portion of their income on utility bills. This means spikes in electricity costs can interrupt monthly finances, and even slight increases can take away from other basic needs like housing, education, and food.

Unfortunately, the concern about cost impacts on low-income families and communities of color is also frequently used as an argument against transitioning to a clean energy economy. Sometimes these arguments come from elected officials and advocates with genuine concerns, while other times, they come from industry groups who are trying to protect their own interests by pitting these communities against clean energy. In both cases, incomplete or outright misinformation muddies the water and impedes effective policy dialogue.

The most recent iteration of this “low income vs. clean energy” messaging comes from an industry group that has been shopping around a resolution with African American and Latino policymakers aimed at curbing support for “net metering” and other policies put in place to advance rooftop solar power. Net metering has been a successful policy that has resulted in growing adoption of rooftop solar and holds long-term benefits for all customers. Read more…

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See How Climate Change Impacts Your State

SACE just released updated, state-specific fact sheets detailing the impacts that climate change is having on six Southeast states. The new fact sheets are available for Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, and Alabama, in PDF format and webpages. Check out the new fact sheets here!

Recurring themes throughout all the states include the incidence of crippling drought; unreliable winter weather, including crop-killing freezes; flooding and sea level rise for the coastal states. More sepcifically, some of the impacts we’ve already witnessed in the Southeast that are projected to increase due to global warming include reduced generation at times of need at power plants due to lack of cooling water, damage to our states’ heritage foods and agricultural sectors (with natural disaster zones declared in all six states for impacts to agriculture in recent years), and droughts so bad that one town in Tennessee completely ran out of fresh water. These examples of climate change impacts are consistent with the findings of the updated National Climate Assessment, released earlier this year, which stated that the biggest impacts to the Southeast are threats from sea level rise, extreme heat, and decreased water availability. Read more…

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Where are the beautiful LED lighting fixtures?

This spectacular dining room fixture captured my imagination at the 2011 Solar Decathlon. Sadly, I haven't seen anything like this for sale since.

Last week, I shared my experiences with new LED bulbs for my home (which provided an update to an old but well-read blog on LEDs from 2011). This week, I have a brief follow-up about one product that I do not see on the market: beautiful LED fixtures with integrated LED lighting.

Think about it: when you buy a LED fixture, you will probably never have to change the bulb. That means there are all kinds of new ways that the designer can incorporate light into a fixture. In 2011, Victoria University’s “First Light” entry in the Solar Decathlon brought this beautiful Maori-inspired fixture that hung over the dining room table. (The table isn’t shown in the picture at right.)

Designed by artist David Hakaraia, the fixture was made of a thin wood veneer. Try *that* with an armful of incandescent bulbs and you’d be calling the fire department! With small LED bulbs distributed throughout the fixture, it casts light down on the table evenly without throwing a sharp light in your eyes when you happen to look up. Read more…

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Will the EPA Coal Ash Rule Survive?

This blog was originally posted on October 28, 2014 by Lisa Evans of Earthjustice.

Sometime after midnight, the White House made it official—its review of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) coal ash rule has begun. The quiet posting of the rule by the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) sets in motion OMB’s official regulatory review pursuant to a 1993 executive order. That this process officially began under the cover of darkness is an apt metaphor. The OMB regulatory review is a black box—opaque, inscrutable and exceedingly dangerous. Rules never come out the way they go in—the offices of OMB are littered with crumpled pages of strong rules gone soft after revision by the White House.

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Are Wind Turbines Too Big?

Wind turbines and cattle coexist. Credit: Michael J. Okoniewski

New wind turbine technology is a game changer for wind energy opportunities in the Southeast. In just five years, wind turbines have greatly evolved to be more suitable across the region. Taller turbines and longer blades are capable of capturing more wind, which results in harnessing more electricity and reducing costs.

But are these wind turbines too big? 

This is one of the most common arguments advanced by anti-wind energy activists. Yet, unlike conventional power plants, wind energy is a clean, renewable source of electricity that requires no water to operate and emits no air pollution. And while tall, modern wind turbines often coexist with many other farming activities on the land including cattle grazing, crop production and even tourism.

We’ll refute this argument once and for all by making a fair comparison of the size of a wind turbine with other electricity sources. Let’s pretend wind turbines were replaced in the shape and form by coal. In our fact sheet below, we decided to call these fictitious power plants “coalbines.” Read more…

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An Urgent Call to Climate Action in the IPCC Synthesis Report

This post, authored by Ilissa Ocko, originally appeared on Climate 411, a blog by Environmental Defense Fund, on November 4, 2014. You can view the original post here. This post concludes our blog series on the IPCC’s 5th Assessment Report, the other posts of which can be found here.

It was released two days late for Halloween, but an international report on the dangers of climate change still has plenty of information about our warming planet that will chill you to the core.

The report is the latest from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The IPCC releases a series of reports every six or seven years that assess the latest data and research on climate change. This latest is the Fifth Assessment Synthesis Report—a culmination of three earlier reports in this series [Editor's Note: You can view SACE's previous blogs on the three previous reports here].

The Synthesis Report summarizes the physical science of climate change; current and future impacts, vulnerabilities, and adaptation of the human and natural worlds; and mitigation opportunities and necessities.

More than anything else, the report underscores the urgent need for action.

Here are 13 details from the report that illustrate why: Read more…

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