As California Goes (with oil spills), So Goes the Nation?

Although desirable when speaking about solar energy deployment, or adoption of smart meters, the maxim “As California Goes, So Goes the Nation” is not the aspiration when it comes to offshore oil drilling and its inevitable spills and economic and ecological impacts. On Wednesday a state of emergency was declared in California as an oil spill in Santa Barbara County, now estimated at 105,000 gallons, spoiled the Refugio State Beach coastline. Though the leaking portion of the Plains American Coastal Pipeline, which transports oil drilled offshore from the ExxonMobil Las Flores Canyon processing plant on to refineries elsewhere, was on land, approximately 21,000 gallons of crude oil spilled into a storm water drain and then into the ocean, creating an oil slick that is now more than nine miles wide.

The sensitive ecological area – home to 25 marine mammal species and 60 species of sea birds - may be coated with oil for weeks but experts warn it could be years before the full extent of the damage is known. In addition to ecological impacts, there are economic impacts and impacts on quality of life to local residents. Residents and tourists alike are complaining of a foul stench in the air, while the Refugio and El Capitan State Beaches are turning away hundreds of Memorial Day campers and visitors from their closed shores as clean up takes place. From previous experience in the Gulf, we know that even once initial cleanup is considered finished, tar may remain on the beach for years to come.

While this ‘minor’ spill might be called a ‘drop in the bucket’ as compared to an earlier oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara in 1969 or the much-larger 135 million gallons barrel Deepwater Horizon spill in 2010, each of these spills, provide further evidence of 4 truths in offshore oil drilling: Read more…

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

Women on the Rise: WINDPOWER 2015

During AWEA's WINDPOWER this week, I was excited to run into Huiyi Zhang, another former Women of Wind Energy Rudd Mayer fellow.

This blog is the fourth in a series from Southern Alliance for Clean Energy staff attending the American Wind Energy Association’s WINDPOWER 2015 Conference & Expo in Orlando, Florida.

During American Wind Energy Association’s (AWEA) WINDPOWER 2015 conference in Orlando this week we’ve heard about the rise of wind energy in the U.S. energy market and the opportunities for wind development in the Southeast. But there’s another part of the wind industry worth noting that is also on the rise: women. The encouragement of young women like myself to dive into the world of wind is in large part thanks to the Women of Wind Energy (WoWE): a non-profit organization dedicated to providing networking resources to emerging women leaders and promoting the advancement of women in the wind industry.

Today I was excited to be surrounded by strong, successful, and ambitious women in the clean energy sector as I attended WoWE’s annual WINDPOWER luncheon. The luncheon occurs each year during the AWEA conference to provide networking opportunities for women in the field, honor women champions of wind, and support WoWE’s mission to help promote the professional development and advancement of women in renewable energy. During the luncheon, WoWE also recognizes six emerging women in the field, awarding them a full scholarship to attend the conference and provide guidance throughout the week. I was grateful to be awarded the WoWE Fellowship last year, which allowed me to attend the 2014 conference, network with industry leaders, and benefit from WoWE’s mentorship program over the past year. Read more…

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

We Need to Support All Types of Solar: Utility-Scale, Rooftop, Community, and More

This guest blog was written by Jim Marston, the founding director of the Texas office of Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). The original post was posted on May 20 and can be found here

Solar energy is booming – and you needn’t look further for proof of its success than Brian H. Potts’ recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal. When a utility lawyer like Potts is arguing for what type of solar energy our country should be investing in –utility-owned, large-scale solar versus customer-owned, rooftop – you know this renewable energy resource has gone mainstream. And that’s a good thing.

We should support a wide variety of clean energy resources precisely because these technologies eliminate the costs of pollution now being socialized by fossil fuel generators. And this is becoming all the more critical as the costs of a changing climate grow.

Rooftop solar incentives deliver benefits

As Potts points out, the price of solar panels has fallen by 80 percent since 2008. This significant decrease in cost – coupled with incentives like net metering that allow customers to send the surplus energy they produce from their solar systems back to the grid and receive a credit on their bill, plus the emergence of new financing models like solar “leasing” programs – has led to an explosion of rooftop solar in the U.S.

Even though these incentives and loan programs have resulted in localized health benefits and unprecedented energy savings for millions of American families and businesses, Potts’ believes our money would be better spent if we invested it in more “cost-effective renewable sources of power” like utility-owned, large-scale solar systems. Read more…

Tags: , , , , , ,

WINDPOWER 2015 Presents Great Opportunities for the South

This blog is the third in a series from Southern Alliance for Clean Energy staff attending the American Wind Energy Association’s WINDPOWER 2015 Conference & Expo in Orlando, Florida. 

Simon Mahan, Renewable Energy Manager at SACE, speaks about the opportunities for wind energy in the Southeast.

There has been a lot of chatter at WINDPOWER this year about the Southeast’s potential for wind energy development with taller towers and longer blades. Yesterday at WINDPOWER, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz spoke to this potential in his presentation while the Department of Energy concurrently released its report Enabling Wind Power Nationwide, which again made the case for the South’s wind potential.

SACE Renewable Energy Manager, Simon Mahan, further developed the case for wind in the South today through presentations on a panel and at the poster session.

Here are some of the highlights:

Most southern states have three or four opportunities to incorporate wind power into their energy portfolio. States can either develop wind energy in-state, purchase wind energy via existing transmission routes, purchase wind energy via new high voltage direct current transmission projects, or develop wind energy offshore. Each different source of wind power has unique cost and performance attributes.

Read more…

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

Do Southeastern utilities deserve high marks for helping manufacturing?

Site Selection magazine’s annual rankings of top utilities for economic development routinely features the four large Southeastern utilities: Southern Company, Tennessee Valley Authority, Duke Energy and Florida Power & Light. But is there room for improvement?

YES! In the Southeast, utilities’ energy efficiency programs, and overall utility planning, fail to focus on critical manufacturing growth issues. The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and our allies have worked for several years to try to persuade those utilities and their regulators to attend to these issues. However, while these large Southeastern utilities are known for their responsiveness to customer-identified concerns –such as Alabama Power’s Technology Application Center — they lack energy efficiency programs that seek out and actively encourage more “energy productive” manufacturing.

The Southeastern utilities are aware of the industrial energy efficiency opportunity, but don’t seem to be able to harness it. Georgia Power’s 2015 energy efficiency potential study estimate that 27% of the utility’s energy efficiency opportunity is with its industrial customers – but Georgia Power still hasn’t proposed an industrial efficiency program. After years of providing weak programs, Florida utilities find their industrial customers want to be exempted from their energy efficiency programs.

With respect to energy efficiency programs (one of the criteria considered by Site Selection), we thought we’d revisit a report from ACEEE that discusses great utility programs that help small and medium manufacturers cut costs and become more competitive. Unfortunately, neither ACEEE nor SACE are aware of any model energy efficiency programs targeting manufacturing businesses in the Southeast.

With respect to overall utility planning, only the Tennessee Valley Authority acknowledges any role for considering the impact of utility resource development plans on the regional economy. Southeastern utilities are eager to attract and assist customers, which certainly supports economic development. But when it comes to making decisions about which energy resources to invest in, they generally fail to pick plans that bolster regional economic development.

Read more…

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

New DOE Report on Enabling Wind Power in the Southeast and Nationwide

This blog is the second in a series from Southern Alliance for Clean Energy staff attending the American Wind Energy Association’s WINDPOWER 2015 Conference & Expo in Orlando, Florida. This post is re-posted from the Department of Energy, originally posted here this morning.

Secretary Moniz on stage this morning at WINDPOWER 2015. Photo courtesy Chris Kunkle.

In support of the President’s all-of-the above energy strategy, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz today announced the release of Enabling Wind Power Nationwide, a report showing how the United States can unlock the vast potential for wind energy deployment in all 50 states—made possible through the next-generation of larger wind turbines. Announced today at the American Wind Energy Association’s WINDPOWER Conference in Orlando, Enabling Wind Power Nationwide builds upon the recently released Wind Vision report, which quantifies the economic, social, and environmental benefits of a robust wind energy future.

The new report highlights the potential for technical advancements to unlock wind resources in regions with limited wind deployment today, such as the Southeast.  These new regions represent an additional 700,000 square miles—or about one-fifth of the United States—bringing the total area of technical wind potential to 1.8 million square miles. Read more…

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Wind Power Shows Southern Hospitality: WINDPOWER 2015

Florida, Land of Sunshine... and Wind!

This blog is the first in a series from Southern Alliance for Clean Energy staff attending the American Wind Energy Association’s WINDPOWER 2015 Conference & Expo in Orlando, Florida.

It’s that time of year again: the American Wind Energy Association’s annual WINDPOWER Conference has begun! For this year, the conference has returned to the South. In 2012, this conference was hosted in Atlanta, and this year, we’re reporting from sunny (and windy) Orlando, Florida. Some folks may be wondering why the industry’s largest conference is hosted in the South, since our region only has one operating wind farm; but some of the presentations that have already been made make a good case for doing business in the South. Here are three reasons why:

Read more…

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

The EPA’s Clean Power Plan: Setting the Record Straight on the Benefits and Costs

In honor of Vanderbilt University’s event “The Clean Power Plan: Health, Energy Demand and Economic Effects” (taking place today and tomorrow) we are publishing this guest blog written by John Rogers, Senior Energy Analyst with Union of Concerned Scientists.  The original post can be found here You can live stream Vanderbilt’s event on Monday May 18 and Tuesday May 19 here.

If you ignore the benefits side of the cost-benefit equation, it's hard to come up with anything but bad news. But when you take a solid look at both sides of the equation, you see a pretty impressive net-positive. We’re working hard to set the record straight on disinformation about the Clean Power Plan, the first-ever national limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants under the Clean Air Act. It’s not hard to find fodder: there’s plenty of misleading stuff out there, and some of it has gotten way more airtime than it should have. To fight back, colleagues and I gave a webinar recently on the really wrong conclusions some studies have come to on the Clean Power Plan, and how they got it so far off the mark. My piece of the webinar looked at several misleading studies funded by fossil fuel and utility interests, studies that try hard to obscure the fact that the benefits of the Clean Power Plan (CPP) are likely to far outweigh the costs. I focused on exposing some of their really off-base assumptions about renewable energy and energy efficiency, two proven tools for cutting carbon cost-effectively… a fact naysayers consistently ignore or deny. Read more…

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

Duke dealt largest federal criminal fine in NC history for coal ash crimes

On May 14, 2015, Duke Energy pled guilty to 9 criminal misdemeanor violations of the Clean Water Act. The charges stemmed from a widened investigation, after the Dan River disaster, that found violations at Duke-owned facilities in Buncombe, Chatham, Wayne and Gaston Counties in North Carolina. Duke negotiated a plea bargain that included $68 million in fines and restitution and $34 million for community service and mitigation projects. Duke’s fine, totaling over $102 million, is the largest criminal fine at the federal level in NC history. In addition to this historic fine, Duke will also be on probation for five years and will report its coal ash compliance in five states to federal parole officers. Read more…

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

Ocean Power Making Waves

The Pelamis wave energy conversion system bobs up and down to generate power.

The Department of Energy recently announced $10.5 million in funding support for new marine hydrokinetic resources. Marine hydrokinetic (MHK) resources are ocean-based renewable energy resources that include waves, currents, tides and even ocean thermal conversion technologies. The federal funds are allocated for research to 1) increase survivability of wave energy generators and 2) reduce installation, operations and maintenance costs for wave and current energy generators.

Survivability of MHK technologies has proven to be tough. One run-of-river project, the Verdant Power project in New York City’s East River, kept having turbine blades break underwater. Other wave energy technologies usually incorporate some floating capability, and have a terrible habit of sinking. While actual, physical survivability has been extremely difficult, financial survivability has also been difficult. One of the best-known wave energy conversion technologies, the European Pelamis “Floating Snake”, has gone into bankruptcy protection.

Read more…

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