Category Archives: NewsBlog

Iowa’s rural future is brighter with solar energy

Contributed by Cody Smith, Center for Rural Affairs, The Gazette

For decades Iowans have led the nation in innovating our way to a cleaner, more reliable power grid that promotes public health and economic prosperity in our rural communities. Now, as we celebrate hitting the milestone of producing nearly 60 percent of our electricity with renewable wind energy, Iowa’s solar industry is also booming and bringing our rural economies along with it. Solar offers a way for Iowa’s local entrepreneurs to slash their energy costs and refocus resources on expanding businesses that line main streets in small towns statewide. Continue reading here.

NEWS FROM OTHER STATES

THE WIRE

OPPD expands smart thermostat program, by Jason Kuiper
OPPD’s Smart Thermostat Program has expanded, and now includes more models from several thermostat manufacturers. These additional choices give customers more options for upgrading to a smart thermostat and participating in OPPD’s program. Customers who install a qualifying smart thermostat and enroll in the program also receive a one-time, $75 OPPD bill credit, plus an additional $20 bill credit each year they participate. If customers have an existing qualified smart thermostat they can enroll directly through their smart thermostat app or online.

DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY NEWS RELEASE

DOE Launches Initiatives to Accelerate Solar Deployment in Underserved Communities
New Efforts Include $15.5 Million to Tackle Barriers to Solar Deployment, Increased Focus on Expanding Clean Energy Access to Low- and Moderate-Income Communities and Fostering A Diverse Solar Workforce

BIDEN ADMINISTRATION RELEASES CONSERVATION PLAN

Conserving And Restoring America The Beautiful Plan (PDF)
A preliminary report to the National Climate Task Force recommending a ten-year, locally-led campaign to conserve and restore the lands and waters upon which we all depend, and that bind us together as Americans.

GAF ENERGY

U.S. solar company GAF Energy moving production back home from Asia, Reuters
GAF Energy, which launched in 2019, competes with Tesla Inc in the market for solar panels that integrate with roofs. It has installed its product on more than 2,000 U.S. rooftops so far, according to [Martin DeBono, president of the company].

Solar Jobs Support 231,000 Families, Must Grow 4X to Reach Biden’s Clean Energy Target

SEIA News Release, May 6, 2021

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. solar industry employed 231,474 workers in 2020, a 6.7% drop from 2019 due to pandemic restrictions and increased labor productivity, according to the National Solar Jobs Census 2020 released today by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), The Solar Foundation, the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC), and BW Research.

The solar industry continues to support hundreds of thousands of jobs across all 50 states, and even during a pandemic, our companies largely were able to keep workers on the job,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of SEIA. “We now have an opportunity to quadruple our workforce, adding diversity and supporting underserved communities by taking policy steps that incentivize solar and storage deployment and provide long-term certainty for solar businesses.” Read more here.

Download the report, view the interactive charts and explore the state map.
Nebraska
Solar Jobs: 1,246 (ranks #32)
Solar Jobs Per Capita: 1:1,576 (ranks #16)
Installed Solar Capacity: 62.96 MW (ranks #46)

ACP News Release

New study: Transmission policy would unlock clean energy growth, by Jesse Broehl,  American Clean  Power Association

Building just 22 high-voltage transmission lines that are currently on hold in the U.S. could increase national wind and solar generation by 50 percent and create approximately 1.2 million jobs, according to a new study from Americans for a Clean Energy Grid (ACEG).

The report, titled Transmission Projects Ready to Go: Plugging into America’s Untapped Renewable Resources, identifies 22 projects currently stalled because the nation lacks the right policies to recover costs of the large-scale interregional transmission needed at the national scale. These shovel-ready projects would unlock roughly 60,000 megawatts (MW) of new renewable energy capacity, but policies relating to how long-range transmission is planned, paid for, and permitted are needed for these to move ahead. Click on this link to access the full report.

 ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READING

Ag groups recommend USDA use pilot projects to build a carbon bank

AgDaily

The Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance, which includes 70 agriculture organizations, has worked over the past three months to develop specific recommendations for how the U.S. Department of Agriculture should approach a potential carbon bank. FACA began sharing those recommendations with USDA and Congress.

A voluntary, USDA-led carbon bank is one policy mechanism being considered to help reduce barriers that producers and landowners face to participating in voluntary carbon markets and adopting climate-smart practices. FACA recommends that USDA lay the foundation for a potential carbon bank by first developing a series of pilot projects that would focus on the following four areas: Continue reading here.

USDA INVESTS IN RESEARCH INNOVATIONS

USDA Invests $21.7M in Research Innovations to Improve Soil Health and Climate Smart Agriculture and Forestry

WASHINGTON, April 21, 2021 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) will invest at least $21.7 million in several key programs to help agricultural producers manage the impacts of climate change on their lands and production. NIFA awarded $6.3 million for 14 Soil Health grants and $5.4 million for seven Signals in the Soil grants through its Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI). NIFA also is investing at least $10 million this year in a new AFRI program area priority called, “Extension, Education, and USDA Climate Hub Partnerships,” to train the next generation of agriculturalists and foresters to incorporate climate change research into their management practices.

About USDA’s Northern Plains Climate Hub
The Northern Plains Hub serves Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska, South Dakota, and North Dakota. The Hub delivers science-based knowledge, practical information, management & conservation strategies, and decision tools to farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners with the goal of helping them adapt to weather variability and changing climatic conditions. See::Topics

MORE NEWS RELEASES: USDA RURAL DEVELOPMENT / NEBRASKA 

ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READING

Energy Storage Grows Up

By Jeff Postelwait, T&D World 

Energy storage is even maturing to the point where it can take the place of building a new power generation asset or building grid upgrades. “When you add storage to your mix, everything becomes more flexible. You can increase hosting capacity of a transmission circuit without having to build a lot of new facilities. So, it’s easy to think of it as a competitor, but what it really is, is more of an enabler and a partner.”    Jason Burwen, interim CEO of the Energy Storage Association. Read more here.

Also By Jeff Postelwait: Energy Goals: What Does a New Administration Mean for Utilities? A look at the future of energy at the federal and state levels, and how the commercial sector also is a powerful driver for renewables.

ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READING

MODEL POLLINATOR-FRIENDLY SOLAR BUSINESS

Solar Power + Bees = Extra Benefit For Massachusetts, by Zachary Shahan, CleanTechnica

Navisun is focused on small utility-scale solar farms and community solar farms. It co-develops, acquires, owns, and operates the solar projects. The two it has just completed, one of which is a community solar farm, are fairly small projects, totaling 3.8 MW of solar power, but the company is just getting rolling and it intends to build and operate many more. 

PRIVATE INVESTMENTS IN RENEWABLE ENERGY

The Future of Private Equity and Solar Energy, contributed by Christopher J. Macklin, Certified Financial Planner (CFP), Solar Magazine

Investments in renewable capacity totaled more than $2.5 trillion between 2010-2019, according to BloombergNEF data. Solar alone drew in half of those funds—$1.3 trillion to be exact—and grew from just 25 GW at the beginning of 2010 to more than 660 GW by the end of the decade. That’s enough energy to power 100 million homes in the U.S. each year. The high volume of capital flowing into the renewable energy sector has increased asset prices. To counter this, private equity firms seeking higher returns are turning to projects under development as opposed to ones already operating.

SALESFORCE

Inside Salesforce’s bold play for supply-chain leadership, by Joel Makower, Chairman & Executive Editor, GreenBiz Group

Last week, the cloud-based software company Salesforce notified its thousands of suppliers that it will include language in all future procurement contracts requiring them, among other things, to set science-based targets to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. And it set financial penalties for those that don’t. It was an unprecedented and bold move that, if emulated by others and aggressively enforced, could transform companies and markets far faster than any regulation ever could.

Salesforce Report: More Than a Megawatt: Embedding Social & Environmental Impact in the Renewable Energy Procurement Process

TENNESSEE VALEY AUTHORITY

Biden’s TVA appointments offer crucial chance for climate justice, Energy News Network

Biden’s nominations to the board of the Tennessee Valley Authority could help fulfill his climate promise by making TVA a model for how public power can lead the clean energy transition, writes guest commentator Gaby Sarri-Tobar, a campaigner with the Center for Biological Diversity’s Energy Justice program.

SOLAR POWER WORLD 

Solar Industry Statement on President Biden’s First Address to Congress

Solar Energy Industries Association News Release

Following is a statement from Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) on President Biden’s Address to Congress:

“President Biden’s emphasis on creating jobs and tackling climate change is a welcome theme tonight in his address to Congress. In working with his administration, we have found that his whole-of-government approach to both jobs and climate is real.

“We know that solar energy plus storage must play a central role in achieving the president’s aspirations for reducing emissions from the power sector. Solar and storage will create hundreds of billions of dollars in new investment and hundreds of thousands of family-supporting jobs this decade. Continue reading here.

American Clean Power Association News Release

American Clean Power Association Encourages Congress to Support the American Jobs Plan

The American Clean Power Association (ACP)  today issued the following statement in support of President Biden’s first address to the 117th United States Congress.

“Climate and clean energy have never before featured so prominently in a presidential address to Congress. This is an historic moment that until now was inconceivable. This is a first, and it underscores that our economic strength and our climate leadership are inseparable. 

The clean energy transition is already well underway, but the President’s infrastructure push is a once in a generation chance to accelerate progress, put steel in the ground, and build a clean infrastructure system that’s the envy of the world. We implore Congress to support the American Jobs Plan to put the country back to work building a sustainable future. There is not a moment to waste.” – Heather Zichal, ACP CEO

New Report Identifies 22 Shovel Ready Regional and Interregional Transmission Projects

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A new report released today identifies 22 shovel ready, high-voltage transmission projects across the country that, if constructed, would create approximately 1,240,000 American jobs and lead to 60,000 megawatts (MW) of new renewable energy capacity, increasing America’s wind and solar generation by nearly 50 percent. The report, Transmission Projects Ready to Go: Plugging into America’s Untapped Renewable Resources, produced by Americans for a Clean Energy Grid (ACEG) as part of the Macro Grid Initiative, outlines how these projects could begin construction soon if more workable transmission policies are enacted. These regional and interregional transmission lines would not only bring quality wind and solar resources to areas with high demand but also increase economic development and grid resilience as well as provide cost-savings for consumers. Read more here.

About Macro Grid Initiative:
The Macro Grid Initiative is a joint effort of the American Council on Renewable Energy and Americans for a Clean Energy Grid to promote investment in a 21st century transmission infrastructure that enhances reliability, improves efficiency and delivers more low-cost clean energy. The Initiative works closely with the American Wind Energy Association, the Solar Energy Industries Association, the Advanced Power Alliance and the Clean Grid Alliance to advance our shared goals. To learn more, visit https://acore.org/macro-grid-initiative

About Americans for a Clean Energy Grid:
Americans for a Clean Energy Grid (ACEG) is the only non-profit broad-based public interest advocacy coalition focused on the need to expand, integrate, and modernize the North American high-voltage grid. ACEG brings together the diverse support for an expanded and modernized grid from business, labor, consumer and environmental groups, and other transmission supporters to support policy which recognizes the benefits of a robust transmission grid. 

FACT SHEET: Biden Administration Advances Expansion & Modernization of the Electric Grid, The White House Briefing Room

A New Program Like FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corps Could Help the Nation Fight Climate Change and Transition to Renewable Energy

By Judy Fahys, Inside Climate News

President Joe Biden has been talking about the idea since before he took office. A week into his presidency, he directed the secretary of the interior to lead development of a strategy to mobilize a Civilian Climate Corps—“the next generation of conservation and resilience workers”—to help address the climate crisis. Then he called for spending $10 billion on the updated CCC in the $2 trillion jobs and infrastructure plan he proposed earlier this month.

“It’s reached a level of seriousness and intention that I have never seen before,” said Mary Ellen Sprenkel, president and CEO of the Corps Network, a national association representing the nation’s 135 existing conservation corps, mostly private-public partnerships that have adopted the corps model for job training and community service. Read more here.

Civilian Climate Corps Act

Image Credit: The Corps Network

Additional Recommended Reading

Student Conservation Association News Release

Young Americans Believe Climate Change is Real – and Want to Do More to Stop It
Eighty-six percent of young Americans believe the world’s climate is changing and 71% conclude human activities are the cause, but youth are struggling to identify individual practices they can take to improve global sustainability, according to a new nationwide poll.

Released by the Student Conservation Association (SCA)The SCA Climate Survey reveals the perspectives of 15-25 year olds on climate change, environmental justice, and related public policy initiatives. The poll shows that although nearly 40% of respondents view climate change as a “crisis,” 83% believe there is still time to prevent its worst effects. Youth are split, however, on whether that goal is achievable.

About the Student Conservation Association
The Student Conservation Association (SCA) is America’s oldest and largest youth conservation organization. SCA conserves lands and transforms lives by empowering young people of all backgrounds to plan, act, and lead while they protect and restore our natural and cultural resources. Founded in 1957, SCA’s mission is to build the next generation of conservation leaders, and seven in 10 of alumni worldwide are employed or studying in conservation-related fields. For more, visit www.thesca.org.

Additional Climate Resource

Climate Science 101, Covering Climate Now 
Climate scientist Dr. Katharine Hayhoe explains the basics of climate change for beginners and those in need of a refresher.

About Covering Climate Now

Mindful of the media’s responsibility to inform the public and hold power to account, we advise newsrooms, share best practices, and provide reporting resources that help journalists ground their coverage in science while producing stories that resonate with audiences. Co-founded by the Columbia Journalism Review and The Nation in association with The Guardian and WNYC in 2019, CCNow’s 460-plus partners include some of the biggest names in news, and some of the smallest, because this story needs everyone.

Learning about renewable energy: New curriculum brings solar to the classroom

By Theresa Bourke, Brainerd Dispatch

About 60 school districts in Minnesota use solar energy, and they now have access to a complementary curriculum to go along with their arrays. The Rural Renewable Energy Alliance, along with other community partners, recently developed a kindergarten through eighth grade curriculum aimed at teaching students about solar energy as a clean, renewable option for the future.

Based in Backus, the Rural Renewable Energy Alliance is a nonprofit aimed at bringing solar and other renewable energy sources to Minnesota communities. The organization’s new curriculum is a natural extension of its Solar Schools project, a partnership with the Region Five Development Commission to install solar panels with 1.5 megawatts of solar capacity at schools in Pine River-Backus and Pequot Lakes, along with both the Brainerd and Staples campuses of Central Lakes College. Continue reading here. 

For more information about the Rural Renewable Energy Alliance’s solar energy curriculum, visit rreal.org/knowledge-is-power.

ZOO IN KANSAS TEACHING BY EXAMPLE

100% green energy and 6 other changes Sedgwick County Zoo has for its 50th birthday, The Wichita Eagle

The Sedgwick County Zoo will ring in its 50th birthday on May 27 with an unveiling of its new entry building and zoo store, both of which will run on 100% renewable energy. The zoo also plans to announce six additional environmental initiatives to reduce the zoo’s carbon footprint. “I think the role of the modern zoo and aquarium is more important today than it’s ever been,” said Dr. Jeff Ettling, the zoo’s executive director. “We all need to take action now because we’re seeing the dramatic impact that climate change is having here at home. We really need to walk the talk. It’s one thing to talk about conservation, it’s another to actually put it into action.”

NEWS FROM OTHER STATES

APPLE NEWS RELEASE

Apple commits $430 billion in US investments over five years
Apple today announced an acceleration of its US investments, with plans to make new contributions of more than $430 billion and add 20,000 new jobs across the country over the next five years. To date, nearly 60 of Apple’s US sites are LEED certified. Apple is carbon neutral for all of its operations in the US and around the world, and last year committed to be 100 percent carbon neutral for its entire supply chain and products by 2030. Apple’s $430 billion US investments include working with more than 9,000 suppliers and companies large and small in all 50 states, supporting American job creation across dozens of sectors, including silicon engineering, 5G, and manufacturing.

ENVIRONMENT AMERICA

Statement: Biden moves toward allowing states to return to setting stricter vehicle emission standards
Vehicle tailpipes are a major source of health-harming air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. After seven years of decline, air pollution started rising in 2016. By 2018, 108 million Americans lived in areas that experienced more than 100 days of degraded air quality. U.S. PIRG and Environment America had called on Biden to strengthen federal fuel economy and vehicle emission standards, and restore state authority, in theFirst Things to Fixreport, which outlined 20 environmental protections the president should enact when beginning his time in office.

Environment America Initiatives include: Mayors for Solar Energy
Environment America’s Mayors for Solar Energy project is helping city leaders take concrete steps toward this brighter, healthier future by building a broad, bipartisan community of mayors and giving them the tools they need to tap into the power of the sun.

Environment America Priorities

Remarks by President Biden at the Virtual Leaders Summit on Climate Session 5: The Economic Opportunities of Climate Action

The White House Briefing Room

We’ve made great progress, in my view, so far. And I’m grateful to all the leaders who have announced new commitments to help us meet the existential threat of climate change. This summit is a start — a start of a road that will take us to Glasgow for the U.N. Climate Change Conference in November where we’re going to make these commitments real, putting all of our nations on path to a secure, prosperous, and sustainable future.

Today’s final session is not about the threat of climate change poses; it’s about the opportunity that addressing climate change provides. It’s an opportunity to create millions of good-paying jobs around the world and innovate — in innovative sectors — you know, jobs that bring greater quality of life, greater dignity to the people performing those jobs in every nation. Read more here.

MORE WHITE HOUSE RELEASES

SOLAR ENERGY INDUSTRIES ASSOCIATION 

Tackling the Climate Crisis Means Smart Solar Solutions, by President & CEO Abigail Ross Hopper 

The American Jobs Plan is a massive step toward meeting our clean energy goals, but Congress must first deliver legislation and then pass it into law. Earth Day is a reminder of the urgency to act. Investing in solar + storage and clean energy infrastructure can generate hundreds of billions of dollars in private investment and hundreds of thousands of family-supporting jobs to help America build back better.

This includes using the tax code to encourage long-term clean energy growth, modernizing the electric grid, prioritizing domestic manufacturing, and investing in a strong, diverse workforce. SEIA is leading a campaign to ensure that Congress seizes on this opportunity and passes meaningful policies that will accelerate an equitable clean energy transition. But we cannot do this alone. We need you to send a message to your elected representatives in Washington, urging them to prioritize clean energy in upcoming infrastructure legislation.

AMERICAN CLEAN POWER ASSOCIATION

American Clean Power Association Applauds Biden Administration on Successful Leaders Summit on Climate, ACP News Release

“This has been a groundbreaking summit for climate action, shining a light on the growing global marketplace for clean energy. The Summit showcased a powerful global demand signal for clean energy. The American clean power industry congratulates the Administration for restoring American global leadership on the road to Glasgow and COP 26. But the hardest work begins now, and it begins at home. Ambitious commitments demand even more ambitious actions to drive progress. Our industry has rolled up our sleeves ready to move the country forward towards a more sustainable energy future, harnessing American ingenuity, investment, and innovation to deliver economic and jobs benefits to communities nationwide.” – Heather Zichal, ACP CEO

A Proclamation on Earth Day, 2021

By President Joseph R. Biden, The White House

On April 22, 1970, millions of Americans rallied together to protect the right of all of us to live free from environmental hazard and harm.  On that first Earth Day, they gathered all across America — on college campuses, in public parks, and State capitals — galvanized by a vision of a healthier, more prosperous Nation where all people could thrive.  Their untiring spirit sparked a national movement for environmental protection that endures today in the bedrock laws that protect the air we breathe, the water we drink, and treasured wild places and wildlife.

Earth Day was primarily conceived and brought to life by a dedicated public servant:  the late Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin.  Senator Nelson and his wife, Carrie Lee -– who herself passed away just last month –- were both dear friends who changed my life; it was Senator Nelson who helped persuade me to remain in the Senate after losing my first wife and daughter in a car accident in 1972.  Senator Nelson changed the world, too, by building a legacy of environmental protection through Earth Day and all of the progress that has come in its wake –- not because it was popular, but because it was the right thing to do for our children and grandchildren.

Over half a century later, that legacy lives on in the chorus of courageous young people across the world who are rising up to demand action on climate change.

Read the entire proclamation here.

Additional White House Briefing Room Releases & Statements