OKLAHOMA is kicking butt with wind power

Blue Canyon Wind Farm in Oklahoma, which delivers 250 MW to Georgia Power customers. Credit: EDP Renewables

Just over 6,600 megawatts of installed wind power capacity exists in the Sooner State – enough to meet about 25% of the state’s annual electricity needs - more than what coal provides.  Oklahoma installed nearly 2,000 megawatts in 2016 alone. By the end of the year, Oklahoma became third in the nation for the most wind power installed.

Just a couple weeks ago, Oklahoma’s regional grid operator (the Southwest Power Pool, or SPP) reached a record wind power penetration level: at one point, the entire region generated 52% of its electricity from wind power. SPP is eyeing perhaps 75% wind energy penetration levels in the long-term, in part because wind is so gosh darn cheap. A Lawrence Berkeley National Lab study found wind power purchase agreements at or below two cents per kilowatt-hour ($0.02/kWh) out of the interior part of the country. An independent analysis from Lazard Associates confirms sub-two cent wind power levelized costs. At the end of last year, Oklahoma had the lowest average electricity prices in the country. And according to the Oklahoma Chamber of Commerce,  wind farms are expected to provide $1 billion in local property tax revenue.

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After Fukushima Nuclear Disaster, Solar Booms in the Land of the Rising Sun

Saturday, March 11, 2017 marks the 6-year anniversary of the devastating earthquake and subsequent tsunami that hit Japan and killed more than 19,000 people. The disaster also led to the triple meltdown at the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear facility. It’s staggering to learn that more than 70,000 people still have not gone home since the disaster due to contamination concerns and that clean-up efforts at the nuclear facility continue to fail while the price tag rises, with some estimates nearing $200 billion. The title of a recent article in The Guardian describes the stark reality of the complicated, long-term effects that a nuclear power accident can cause: “Dying robots and failing hope: Fukushima clean-up falters six years after tsunami – Exploration work inside the nuclear plant’s failed reactors has barely begun, with the scale of the task described as ‘almost beyond comprehension.’”

A recent, short interview on PRI’s Living on Earth with the Institute for Energy & Environmental Research’s Dr. Arjun Makhijani about the seriousness of the current situation is a must-listen segment putting the severity in perspective: “Fukushima is possibly the longest running, continuous industrial disaster in history. It has not stopped because the risks are still there.”

Did you know that Japan had 54 operating reactors at the time of the disaster and that now, six years later, only two are producing electricity? Japan is a highly industrialized, advanced economy and yet they’ve managed to survive without almost their entire nuclear power plant fleet. How did they do it? This blog focuses on part of that answer: Japan has invested, successfully, in clean, renewable energy.

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What is the fastest growing occupation in the country? (Hint: It will blow you away!)

Credit: American Wind Energy Association

At the end of 2016, wind power surpassed hydropower as the number one source of renewable energy generation in the country. And growing right alongside wind power generation are wind power jobs. There are now over 100,000 people employed by the U.S. wind industry. The fastest growing occupation in the country is wind turbine technician.

Now, a report released today by Navigant Consulting projects that careers in the wind industry will continue to grow drastically. The analysis forecasts wind power industry employment and investments through 2020. Navigant projects that wind energy industry jobs will grow to a quarter of a million jobs by 2020 (including direct, indirect and induced jobs). Additionally, over the next four years, the wind industry will generate $85 billion of economic activity nationwide. These economic benefits are based on projections that the wind industry will add 35,000 megawatts of new wind power capacity through 2020.

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Electric Vehicles Facing New Threats in the Southeast

Under the gold dome in Georgia this year, legislators had the opportunity to consider new legislation to support electric vehicles (EV) and reduce the burden felt by both current and potential EV drivers in Georgia. HB 317 was introduced by Representative Todd Jones (R-South Forsyth) to reduce the “EV user fee” that was passed as part of the transportation bill (HB 170) in 2015. The EV user fee is a $200 fee (adjusted annually for inflation) that EV owners must pay annually with their vehicle’s tag registration. The goal of an “EV user fee” is to offset the loss of gas tax revenue (which provides funding for roads) as EV drivers don’t buy fuel, thus ensuring EV drivers help “pay their fair share” for using Georgia’s roads. While the majority of EV drivers agree that paying a fee makes sense, most feel it should be calculated based on miles traveled or in proportion to the size of the vehicle, or some other reasonable fact-based metric vs. an arbitrarily high penalty.

In 2015, when the fee was being considered, Georgia’s House Transportation Chair openly admitted that the math was fuzzy, yet here we are two years later with an EV fee of $204.20, twice what a Ford F-150 truck or large SUV would pay in gas taxes annually for driving the same number of miles, yet having less impact on the roads and emitting less pollution. HB 317 was not heard by the House Transportation Committee before “Crossover Day”, so it will not move forward, but SACE urges leaders to fix this punitive fee, give it a fair hearing and prioritize this change next sessionLet your elected officials know NOW that you want the fee lowered — you may submit comments to the Governor here, the Lt. Governor here or find more information on our Take Action page.

SACE has been meeting with legislators to share data on why the fee should be lowered. Many legislators have expressed support for lowering the fee and admitted that the fee is unreasonably high, but their hands have been tied by a “directive” that provisions of the transportation bill should not be touched. We think this is bad for Georgians. Read more…

The SC House’s Billion-Dollar Solar Opportunity

Courtesy of the South Carolina Solar Business Alliance

A bill before the South Carolina House Ways and Means Committee presents a nearly one-and-a-half billion-dollar investment opportunity for the state if it ultimately passes. The Renewable Energy Jobs and Economic Development Bill (S. 44/H. 3079) seeks to attract investment from the solar industry, similar to what North Carolina has enjoyed in recent years, by setting tax policy for solar energy development projects consistent with North Carolina’s.  The bill offers the opportunity to help close the investment gap when it comes to solar and also paves the way for major increases in local government revenue in counties around the state. The South Carolina Senate has already passed the bill with overwhelming support (38-4 vote), and SACE encourages the Committee to support the bill and help open the doors to major investment in a clean, reliable, cost-effective energy technology for South Carolina’s future.

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Guest Post: Southeast states fight to avoid becoming coal ash dumping ground

Left: coal ash, Right: normal river sediment. Photo added by SACE.

WRITTEN BY
Gillian Neimark
Southeast Energy News

Click here to see the original publication of this article by Southeast Energy News.

“The Southeast does not want to become the low-cost, low-environmental protection refuge for the nation’s coal ash,” says Frank Holleman, a senior attorney in the Chapel Hill, North Carolina office of the Southern Environmental Law Center.

But without tighter legislation, that might happen.

When the EPA strengthened regulations on coal ash disposal in 2015, the agency intended to force the closure of ash ponds—and few legislators foresaw that power companies might choose to send their wet ash across state lines into communities that don’t want the hazardous waste.

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Black History Month Energy Leaders Blog Series: Reverend Marlon T. Foster’s Quest for Energy Efficiency and Community Solar

Reverend Marlon T. Foster

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 fourth and final post in the series, and is a guest blog from Yolanda Manning, Program Manager, Green Leaf Learning Farm. To read other posts in this series, click here

A recognized and dedicated leader and pastor in South Memphis, Rev. Marlon Foster was born, raised and currently lives, works and worships in the area. Shortly after his graduation from Lemoyne-Owen College (LOC), Foster and several other residents began tutoring reading comprehension to children in the neighborhood. These were the beginnings of what is now known as Knowledge Quest (KQ), a youth and community development organization, whose mission is “to vigorously equip youth to maximize their potential through intellectual and character development”.

In the heart of South Memphis, Foster, is the founder and executive director of KQ, an organization that serves residents primarily residing in the 38126 and 38106 zip codes. These sites are located within a 2-mile corridor along Walker Avenue, also known as the “Knowledge Quest Kids Zone.” KQ, is most known for its promotion of academic excellence for grades Pre-K through 12 grade. KQ operates through four strategic programs that engages the youth and provides services to the community throughout the year. The nearly 20 year organization is made up of four programs, the Extended Learning Academies (ELA), Family Stability Initiative (FSI), the Universal Parenting Place (UPP), and lastly the Green Leaf Learning Farm (GLLF), which also features the Jay Uiberall Culinary Academy.

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Retired Fighter Pilot Responds to “Fact Free” Attacks on Wind Farm in NC

As a native North Carolinian and self-professed clean energy enthusiast, I have really been scratching my head lately over recent pushback on our state’s first large-scale wind farm. To catch you up on the issue, the online retail giant Amazon recently flipped the switch on a 208-megawatt wind farm, located outside of Elizabeth City in eastern North Carolina. As this $400 million dollar project was nearing completion last month, a group of 10 state legislators from North Carolina sent a letter to Gen. John Kelly, now President Trump’s appointed Homeland Security Department Secretary, asking him to halt the project. Their main concern was the “industrial wind energy interference with the North Carolina-Virginia Relocatable Over-the-Horizon Radar (ROTHR) facility.” Once I read that, I immediately thought back to a highly informative webinar SACE co-hosted last summer with Colonel Mark “Puck” Mykleby, who happens to be a retired U.S. Marine Corps fighter pilot in South Carolina. Fast forward a few weeks when the Amazon wind farm goes live, and I was able to catch up with Puck to pick his brain about this new wind farm and the controversy surrounding it.

Before we really started digging down in to the specifics of this wind farm project, Puck wanted to address a one of the questionable claims in the letter sent to Gen. Kelly: “…due to the political correctness focus of the current [Obama] administration, [Dept. of Defense] entered into an ‘Agreement’ to allow this intrusion.” Puck responded strongly with these words: ”Bottom line: The U.S. military is never, ever going to succumb to political correctness. And, oh by the way, our decisions will always be based on facts; not ideology.”  That statement really shaped the rest of our conversation and Puck didn’t waste anytime getting down to his four main points he wanted to address: Read more…

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Smart, Prosperous and Resilient? Memphis Named as 1 of 6 Sites for New Climate, Health and Racial Equity Initiative

North Memphis community members attended a meeting to learn more about the SPARCC initiative.

High energy burdens, sub-standard housing, pervasive poverty, poor public transportation access, poor access to health care and food deserts are all too common in North Memphis. Large community re-development projects in Memphis have often left communities like North Memphis behind – resulting in more divided neighborhoods and displacement of low-income and minority communities. Many are left asking – when is this ever going to change?

As it turns out, a change may be coming thanks to a novel opportunity known as the Strong, Prosperous, and Resilient Communities Challenge (SPARCC). Memphis, specifically North Memphis, has been chosen as one of six SPARCC sites – along with Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles and the San Fransisco Bay Area. The three-year SPARCC initiative is focused on fostering collaboration between communities and government and industry leaders, which could lead to multi-million dollar investments in community driven projects. SACE has been heavily involved in conversations with the North Memphis community, where many homes suffer structural problems that make them ineligible for existing energy efficiency and weatherization funding.

At a Feb. 21st community meeting, a large crowd gathered to learn more about SPARCC. Some community members shared frustration with the three year timeline – that wouldn’t bring and opportunity for much needed, large capital investments until the later years of the grant. Other community members were thankful that SPARCC puts the focus on the community and its needs, creating a collaborative structure between community and city leadership that hasn’t happened before.

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Future is Bright for Women in the Solar Industry

Anne Blair moderates a panel featuring women in the Georgia solar industry.

This week Atlanta was one of 15 cities to celebrate the annual National Women in Solar Energy week. Organized by the non-profit, Women In Solar Energy (WISE), #nationWISE is a multi-city roundtable discussion that focuses on the development of women in the solar industry. Attendees in Atlanta represented a broad range of solar professions including non-profits, utilities, finance, installation and development and operations.

One of the big takeaways? The future is bright for women in the solar industry. In 2016, women represented 28% of the solar workforce. This is up from 18.7% in 2013, and is continuing to climb.

Last year, the solar industry added 51,000 American jobs (now a total of 260,000 jobs) and grew at a rate 17 times higher than the national economy. Solar jobs have increased by at least 20% per year for the past four years. Here in the Peach State, Georgia is the 3rd fastest growing solar producer in the country. Event attendees had the opportunity to hear from women that are playing a key role in this booming industry.

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