Category Archives: Research

Soil: The Secret Weapon in the Fight Against Climate Change

By Natural Resources Defense Council, EcoWatch

Agriculture is on the front lines of climate change. Whether it’s the a seven-year drought drying up fields in California, the devastating Midwest flooding in 2019, or hurricane after hurricane hitting the Eastern Shore, agriculture and rural communities are already feeling the effects of a changing climate. Scientists expect climate change to make these extreme weather events both more frequent and more intense in coming years.

Agriculture is also an important — in fact a necessary — partner in fighting climate change. The science is clear: We cannot stay beneath the most dangerous climate thresholds without sequestering a significant amount of carbon in our soils. Here are just a few of the ways the Natural Resources Defense Council works to encourage climate-friendly farming: Read more here. 

Pexels Photo

ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READING

U.S. farm leaders tout role at COP25 meeting, The Fence Post

U.S. farm leaders under the banner of the North America Climate Smart Agricultural Alliance (NACSAA) are making a series of presentations this week at the Madrid meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), formally known as the Conference of the Parties or COP25, a gathering to establish rules to implement the Paris climate agreement.

A common message the contingent is delivering in Madrid is a call for support of the guiding principles that were developed to ensure that farmers remain at the center of all discussions and decision-making related to agricultural solutions. They also assert that findings must be science-based. 

More About NACSAA
The North America Climate Smart Agriculture Alliance (NACSAA) is a farmer-led platform for inspiring, educating, and equipping agricultural partners to innovate effective local adaptations that sustain productivity, enhance climate resilience, and contribute to the local and global goals for sustainable development. NACSAA reflects and embraces all scales of agriculture in Canada, Mexico and the United States, ranging from small landholders to midsize and large-scale producers.

NACSAA encourages climate smart agriculture (CSA) strategies to enhance the adaptive capacity of North American agriculture to changing climate conditions and works to achieve this goal through three complementary strategies: 1) sustainably increasing agricultural productivity and livelihoods (i.e. sustainable intensification); 2) enhancing adaptive capacity and improving resilience; and 3) delivering ecosystem services, sequestering carbon, and reducing and/or avoiding greenhouse gas emissions. 

Multinationals pushing governments to enable renewable energy deployment

By Robin Whitlock, Renewable Energy Magazine

RE100, the global corporate initiative led by The Climate Group in partnership with CDP, has now counted 200+ multinational companies targeting 100 percent renewable electricity, by 2028 on average; with one in three already above 75 percent renewable. One in two are preparing to use their influence with stakeholders, such as policy makers and utilities, to push for faster transition to renewables. RE100 membership has grown by over a third in the last year, with the energy-critical Asia Pacific region accounting for over 40 percent of new joiners. Three more companies joining today include the Ralph Lauren Corporation. Read more here.

For additional information: RE100

FEATURED SOLAR SCHOOLS REPORT

Powering A Brighter Future: A Report on Solar Schools in Virginia, Generation 180
Power purchase agreements (PPAs) are the primary method Virginia schools use to finance solar installations. Nationwide, PPAs account for nearly 90% of K-12 solar school installations since 2014.4 Through a PPA, a third party purchases, owns, and maintains the solar panels, and the school or district agrees to buy the electricity produced by the system for the length of the agreement, often 25 or more years. PPAs are popular with schools because they make it possible to install solar with little-to-no upfront investment or ongoing maintenance costs. In addition, the school or district typically pays a lower electricity rate than it previously paid the utility, resulting in immediate energy cost savings.

MODEL CHARITABLE SOLAR PROJECTS

Solar field, pre-K both examples of public-private fund-raising efforts, The Toledo Blade
Charitable projects with both public and private roots took center stage in Toledo on several occasions during 2019, with the most recent being the official start of a solar-energy project on the former Jeep factory site whose revenues will benefit nearby neighborhoods.

BLACK HILLS ENERGY

Colorado utility sees “opportunistic window” to save money with solar and wind plus storage, PV Magazine. Black Hills Energy is seeking 200 MW of solar power or wind plus energy storage capacity as part of an RFP, driven – not by any requirements – but by 2019 summertime bids solar and solar plus storage bids of 2.4¢/kWh and 3.6¢/kWh and the pending step down of the 30% investment tax credit.

Black Hills Energy serves 1.2 million customers in eight states: Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming.

MORE ENERGY TRANSITION NEWS

This Energy Transition Is Different. Here’s Why, by contributor Andy Stone, Forbes
Renewable energy employment already far surpasses employment in fossil fuels, and the gap will continue to grow.  Economics clearly favor an energy transition. All of this serves to show that conditions are in fact ripe for us to reach the goals outlined under the Paris Accord.  Despite arguments to the contrary, at our time of existential crisis when rapid change is required, we have the tools at hand to get the job of energy transition done.

Andy Stone is producer and host of the Energy Policy Now Podcast from the University of Pennsylvania’s Kleinman Center for Energy Policy, and consultant on policy and communications issues with energy sector advisory firms.

FEATURED SOLAR WORKFORCE RESOURCES

  • The Solar Training Network is a workforce development program led by The Solar Foundation and funded by the Department of Energy. Through original research, solar-focused career fairs, regional employer-instructor summits and an online interactive directory, the Solar Training Network improves understanding of the solar jobs landscape and lays the groundwork for a better qualified and more diverse solar workforce.
  • The Solar Energy Industries Association: Careers in Solar Energy

Gunnison navigates net-zero scenario

Gunnison Country Times

The City of Gunnison is narrowing in on its goal of becoming “net-zero” in its electric power supply next year. MEAN [Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska] representative Sarah Jones said the agency is currently working with city leaders to craft a new resource portfolio to meet Gunnison’s net-zero goal. “We are actively working with them to achieve their goals right now,” said Jones. Jones pointed to two other communities in Colorado, Aspen and Glenwood Springs, that have followed a similar path of pursuing renewable energy in lieu of reliance on fossil fuels. Both those municipalities served by MEAN are now sourcing energy from non-carbon emitting sources to be 100 percent renewable. However, according to City Manager Russ Forrest, while the goal is to be net-zero, there are still contractual details to be worked out. Read more here.

Photo: MEAN’s 30-MW Kimball, Nebraska Wind Facility. See: GE-Powered Kimball Wind Project Begins Operations In Nebraska, North American Windpower

About MEAN

The Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska (MEAN) is the not-for-profit wholesale electricity supply organization of NMPP Energy. Created in 1981, MEAN provides cost-based power supply, transmission and related services to 69 participating communities in four states: Colorado, Iowa, Nebraska and Wyoming.

Previously Posted 

A Renewable Energy Future for Colorado Communities Served by the Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska, report completed in February of 2019 by Sustainable Development Strategies Group (SDSG), a nonprofit research group based in Gunnison, Colorado.

Will Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska remain reliant on coal?, by Joe Smyth, Clean Cooperative
One striking finding in the SDSG report: coal accounted for 61% of MEAN’s resource mix in 2017, according to its 2017 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP). And in contrast to major power suppliers for other Colorado towns and cities like Platte River Power Authority and Xcel Energy, MEAN expects that coal will remain a large portion of its energy mix, and even increase slightly to 64% by 2030.

Most electric cooperatives in Colorado face limits on local renewable energy development, because of their contracts with Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association. The SDSG report details how the towns and cities that buy power from MEAN also face limits on local energy projects, following a 2005 decision by MEAN to place a moratorium on new generation. But MEAN has also made exceptions to that policy – most notably, the city of Aspen is a member of MEAN, but was able to reach its 100% renewable energy goal in part by negotiating with MEAN.

Illinois Clean Energy Jobs Act will improve the state’s economic climate

By Christine Hicks, Environmental Defense Fund

A recent study developed by The Accelerate Group measured the economic impact of CEJA and found the answer — it’s tens of billions of dollars. The new economic impact report released by the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition shines a light on just how much CEJA would contribute to the state’s economy. Here’s the bottom line: the legislation, if enacted, would result in $39 billion in new private investment in Illinois through 2030. Read more here. 

ALSO IN THE NEWS

UPCOMING WEBINAR

Solar Plus Storage as Resiliency: Friday, December 13, 9 to 9:45 a.m. 
As part of Michigan Energy Options’ Winter Solar Webinar Series, Seth Mullendore, Vice President and Project Director for Clean Energy Group, will discuss how solar PV with battery storage can create resiliency in communities and replace traditional power plants with clean technologies. 

Register here.

NEW STUDY

Biased capacity markets accelerating gas over solar, storage, PV Magazine
Regional markets for energy capacity favor new gas generation over solar and storage, at a high cost to consumers. Eight U.S. Senators have taken notice, while a new report marshals the evidence. The Grid Strategies report, titled Too much of the wrong thing: the need for capacity market replacement or reform, was written by Rob Gramlich and Michael Goggin. The Sustainable FERC Project, which commissioned the report, is a partnership among 24 citizens’ groups.

WOMEN IN AG LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE

Generations of leadership is focus of Women in Ag Leadership Conference, LeMars Daily Sentinel
Iowa State alumnus Elizabeth Burns-Thompson is the capstone speaker. Among the nation’s first cohort of 30 Under 30 leaders in agriculture, she is passionate about Iowa’s renewable energy. She will encourage women of all generations to follow their dreams and trust their own abilities and opportunities. Online registration is available at www.aep.iastate.edu/leadership
General registration is $60 and student registration is $30.

ELECTRIC COOPERATIVES

RURAL ELECTRIC COOPERATIVE RESOURCES

NRECA’s Solar Utility Network Deployment Acceleration (SUNDA) Resources
NRECA Electric Cooperatives & Solar
NRECA Electric Cooperatives & Community Solar
NRECA Electric Cooperatives & Wind

FEATURED HOLIDAY WISH LIST

2019 holiday wish list: Power sector edition, Utility Dive 
With the holiday season upon us, many kids — and some adults — are making wish lists. In that spirit, Utility Dive queried a dozen industry and environmental/advocacy groups about their policy wish list.

In Iowa, grassroots energy districts aim to spur local clean energy conversations

Written by Karen Uhlenhuth, Energy News Network

A decade ago, Craig Mosher was one of a half-dozen people trying to rethink energy in their small hometown of Decorah in northeast Iowa.  “The general concern was climate change, but the specific concern was energy, and what we could do to reduce energy use and to shift to renewables,” Mosher recalled about the group’s early meetings at Luther College, a Lutheran school with a heavy environmental emphasis. Their solution? To create an “energy district,” an entity modeled after the soil and water conservation districts of the 1930s, but with a focus on energy. In the 10 years since the founding of the Winneshiek Energy District in Decorah, energy districts have become a movement in Iowa. Read more here.

Photo Credit: Winneshiek Energy District

Also In The News

Road to 100: How one man’s mission to power his hometown by wind created a Northwest Missouri boon

By Catherine Morehouse, Utility Dive

This is the first of a four part series based on Utility Dive visits to cities that produce more renewable power than they consume.

ATCHISON COUNTY, MISSOURI — In the early 2000s, Eric Chamberlain was leading a funeral procession toward southern Minnesota when he saw several wind turbines spinning slowly over the low Iowa bluffs.

“On the way back, I pulled off. I did not pull off during the procession. I was very polite — I did not pull the hearse over,” he told Utility Dive while driving down the Rock Port, Missouri, street he grew up on, toward the four turbines that made the town of just over 1,200 famous. “But on the way back, I stopped at a local newspaper, which is always a good clearinghouse for information, and asked about some of the wind projects.” Continue reading here.

Photo Credit: Catherine Morehouse, Utility Dive

Additional Recommended Reading

NREL Research 

Tell the kids, that 50% solar powered future of ours, it’s going to work just fine – NREL says so, PV Magazine USA. Modeling done by researchers from the Strategic Energy Analysis Center at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), in Sunny with a Chance of Curtailment: Operating the US Grid with Very High Levels of Solar Photovoltaics, shows how the three main power grids in the United States might run on the highest penetration solar days (90%+ of demand being met by solar), when 55% of annual electricity use is met with solar photovoltaics. The hourly model also shows how much extra solar electricity we’d have to do something with, when we’d have it (springtime), and how it might affect (lower) pricing of competing electricity generation sources.

Related Op-Ed

 ‘Economic Curtailment’ – what it is and how to embrace it, PV Magazine
In this op-ed for pv magazine, Morgan Putnam outlines a five-step process for renewable developers, environmental advocacy organizations and state agencies to embrace economic curtailment. My experience is that many utility employees quickly realize that the economic curtailment of excess renewable energy isn’t so terribly different from the use of gas peakers.

New money: Green banks and green bonds are bringing billions to utilities for the energy transition

By Herman K. Trabish, Utility Dive

Hundreds of billions of dollars in untapped new money can finance the U.S. power system’s transition away from legacy fossil assets to renewables and distributed generation. Utilities like Duke Energy and Xcel Energy have issued billions in green bonds to fund renewables development. Green banks in New York, Connecticut and other states are backing investments in distributed resources and energy efficiency. It appears much more institutional money wants in on the green opportunity. Congress is considering proposals for a National green bank, which can help propel the energy transition if it can win the acceptance that major utilities told Utility Dive it deserves. Read more here.

ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READING

MIDWEST SOLAR ADVOCACY STORIES

From green-minded business owners to political activists: an industry shift in the Midwest, Solar Power World. For many Midwest solar companies, taking on advocacy roles in an industry just getting off the ground has been a necessary responsibility. Here is a look at solar policy in three Midwest states and how local solar installers have taken matters into their own hands.

CLIMATE ACTION GOALS & PROGRESS

MORE EV NEWS

MORE INDUSTRY NEWS

  • Secretive energy startup backed by Bill Gates achieves solar breakthrough, CNN
    Heliogen, a clean energy company that emerged from stealth mode on Tuesday, said it has discovered a way to use artificial intelligence and a field of mirrors to reflect so much sunlight that it generates extreme heat above 1,000 degrees Celsius. The breakthrough means that, for the first time, concentrated solar energy can be used to create the extreme heat required to make cement, steel, glass and other industrial processes. In other words, carbon-free sunlight can replace fossil fuels in a heavy carbon-emitting corner of the economy that has been untouched by the clean energy revolution.
  • Old dog solar panel manufacturer, Panasonic, learning new home storage tricks, PV Magazine
    Panasonic recently launched their EverVolt home energy storage system, with an AC and DC coupled unit that easily can scale up to 34 kWh and, when coupled with their HIT solar modules, can power your home indefinitely if the grid goes down.
  • Target in energy milestone — ahead of schedule, Chain Store Age
    During the past five years, Target has installed more solar systems than any other company, according to data from SEIA’s Solar Means Business report. The chain is also a four-time Energy Star Partner of the Year. 
  • Wind output to jump 37% because of climate shift — study, E&E News

FEATURED GREEN CAMPUS

Award spotlights UI’s energy efforts, Champaign/Urbana News- Gazette
Five years after it opened, the $98 million Electrical and Computer Engineering Building at the University of Illinois has been awarded “platinum” certification under the LEED environmental rating system. Designed to someday be a “net zero” energy user, the building has a $3 million rooftop solar array with 950 panels that generate renewable electricity for the building and, on sunny days, contribute to the campus-wide power grid. The building also uses power from campus solar farms.

TRACKING THE SUN REPORT

US Solar Panel Prices Continue Dropping, Solar+Storage Increasing — Tracking The Sun Report, CleanTechnica. Tracking the Sun (PDF) is an annual report from Berkeley Lab on installed solar panel prices and other trends among grid-connected, distributed solar photovoltaic (PV) systems in the United States.

SOLINATOR VIDEO

Tracking Progress on 100% Clean Energy Targets

By Julia Pyper, Greentech Media

According to a new report from the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation, 13 states, districts and territories, as well as more than 200 cities and counties, have committed to a 100 percent clean electricity target — and dozens of cities have already hit it. This means that one of every three Americans, or roughly 111 million U.S. residents representing 34 percent of the population, live in a community that has committed to or has already achieved 100 percent clean electricity. Read more here.

CORPORATE NEWS

MORE 100% RENEWABLE ENERGY NEWS

100% Wind & Solar Energy At Research Lab In Antarctica, CleanTechnica

TRI-STATE 

United Power and La Plata Electric explore ways to leave Tri-State, ask PUC for help, Craig Daily Press
United, based in Brighton, is the largest co-op in the association serving 92,000 homes and businesses in Front Range communities, while La Plata is the third largest co-op, with about 37,000 members. Together they account for about 20% of Tri-State’s sales. Tri-State alone serves 43 rural electric cooperatives in four states — Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico and Wyoming. Colorado alone accounts for 65% of all Tri-State electricity sales.

NEW ILLINOIS LAW

New state law could allow more aggressive climate action, The Daily Northwestern, Northwestern University and Evanston News Source

LAWSUIT TO WATCH

A 24-Year-Old Is Suing Pension Fund for Not Being Green Enough, Fortune
The Federal Court battle is shaping up to be a unique test case. Are pension funds in breach of their fiduciary duties by failing to mitigate the financial ravages of a warmer planet?

FEATURED ARTICLE & REPORT

How to assess candidates’ decarbonization and climate resilience plans, contributed article by Robert Lampert, Senior Scientist at RAND Corporation. Published by GreenBiz. Offering ambitious future targets for decarbonization and climate resilience is a good start. But unless a climate plan is comprehensive, includes contingency plans and opens the floodgates for change, it can’t and shouldn’t be taken seriously.

In his article, Lampert references the Center For Climate And Energy Solutions (C2ES)
In a year-long collaboration with companies – and with the RAND Corporation, and the Joint Global Change Research Institute – C2ES produced and modeled three scenarios for reducing U.S. emissions 80 percent by 2050. The resulting report, Pathways to 2050: Scenarios for Decarbonizing the U.S. Economy, presents the scenarios and modeling results, as well as key takeaways. These include the importance of policy in driving technology deployment and the need for all-in effort that includes policymakers at all levels, companies, investors and the public. Stories on the report have appeared in major media, including AxiosBloomberg NewsForbes, the Kleinman Center for Energy PolicyPolitico, and Utility Dive.
Factsheet: Near-Term Federal Actions to Address Climate Change outlines an array of federal actions that represent opportunities for bipartisan progress on climate change.

SOLAR MOSAIC 

Institutional investors warm to residential solar securitizations, PV Magazine
Solar Mosaic’s recent $208 million securitization of residential solar loans is the latest sign that institutional investors are getting more comfortable with this class of asset-backed securities.

AWEA BLOG POST

The Wind Wildlife Research Fund: Producing results through innovation and collaboration

OFFSHORE WIND OUTLOOK

Offshore wind will be a $1T industry by 2040, but our oceans and economy need it now, Utility Dive Contributed article by Stephanie McClellan, director of the Special Initiative on Offshore Wind, a U.S. offshore wind energy policy and communications program based at the University of Delaware.

MORE INDUSTRY NEWS

ENERGY STORAGE 

EVS & GREEN CARGO TRANSPORT NEWS

All The Energy Storage The Grid Needs Will Soon Be Under Our Noses

By Jeff McMahon, Forbes

Vehicle-to-grid technology is not a new idea—China jumped on it early—but it looks like an increasingly promising idea as electric-vehicle adoption takes off. The International Energy Agency’s most conservative estimate puts 130 million electric vehicles on the road by 2030, and [World Resources Institute researcher Camron Gorguinpour] said those vehicles will contain almost ten times the amount of energy storage needed by the grid. Read more here.

Photo: Enel’s JuiceBox Pro 40 residential EV charging station.

Additional Recommended Reading 

Previously Posted

With 10% penetration, EVs could shift all residential peak load to night, analysis of SoCal Ed finds, Utility Dive. Electric vehicles have the potential to act as virtual power plants that can help utilities soak up midday renewable energy and discharge in the evenings to reduce peak load, according to a study from Jackson Associates. The analysis, based on 5,000 Southern California Edison (SCE) customers’ hourly loads, commuting behavior and “potential electric vehicle (EV) ownership,” concluded that at a 10% EV penetration, the batteries could shift the utility’s entire residential peak load to nighttime hours.

Midlands Voices: OPPD moving too fast with power plan

By John Crabtree, Omaha World-Herald. The writer, of Fremont, Nebraska,
is the campaign representative for Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign.

After stating a desire to engage the public in its on-going decarbonization planning, OPPD has presented a plan of its own without engaging stakeholders in a meaningful way. “Power with Purpose” was first introduced at the Oct. 17 board meeting. A timeline was established for consideration of the proposal at the Nov. 14 meeting and specifying that OPPD would receive public input on the proposal through Nov. 8. Having touted the intention to get feedback about the plans, OPPD is now pushing through a plan to spend what would amount to half billion dollars of ratepayer funds while only offering a few weeks for the public to process. Read more here.

Related

More power needed: OPPD plans to build Nebraska’s largest solar farm, plus natural gas plants, Omaha World-Herald. Construction on the new solar farm and natural gas plants is expected to begin in 2020. The solar farm could be completed in 2022 or 2023. The natural gas plants could be built by 2023 or 2024.

Previously Posted Reports & News Stories

Energy Efficiency

Nebraska’s growth potential for developing our communities’ energy-efficient economies is enormous, which would reduce our dependency on fossil fuels and keep more of our energy dollars in our state. Nebraska ranks 43rd on the 2019 American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy State Scorecard. The Scorecard demonstrates that energy efficiency is “a key resource nationwide, with utilities spending approximately $8 billion in 2018 for efficiency programs and saving 27.1 million MWh of electricity:” Resource Link: 2019 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard – 13th Edition

Nebraska’s Energy Efficiency Scorecard

Other State Rankings

  • Colorado: 14th
  • Iowa: 23rd
  • Kansas: 46th
  • Massachusetts: 1st
  • Minnesota: 8th
  • Missouri: 30th

Carbon Footprints / Environmental Impacts Of Solar & Wind Energy Versus “Cleanest” Natural Gas Power Plants

  • An introduction to the state of wind power in the U.S., by Philip Warburg, environmental lawyer and former president of the Conservation Law Foundation. Published by Yale Climate Connections. As a non-carbon-emitting technology, wind power has a big environmental advantage over its leading fossil fuel competitors. Onshore and offshore wind has a life cycle carbon footprint of 20 grams or less of CO2 equivalent per kilowatt-hour. The “cleanest” natural gas power plants – those that use combined cycle technology – produce more than 400 grams of CO2 equivalent per kilowatt-hour. Supercritical coal plants – the least polluting in the industry – generate close to 800 grams of CO2 equivalent per kilowatt-hour.
  • Life Cycle Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Solar Photovoltaics, National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Photovoltaic (PV) solar has a life cycle carbon footprint of 40 grams or less of COequivalent per kilowatt-hour.