The Economic Case for Solar, Not the Climate-Change Case, Is Driving Its Uptake Across the Southern U.S. FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享InsideClimate News:When Brandon Presley was elected to the Mississippi Public Service Commission in 2007, he said, he couldn’t have found a solar farm “with a SWAT team and a search warrant.”A decade later, Mississippi is one of the fastest-growing solar markets in the United States, according to GTM Research. The state’s public service commission approved several solar projects this summer, and the state is expected to gain more than 700 megawatts of solar capacity over the next five years.One of the its newest projects is a 52-megawatt solar farm near Hattiesburg. A partnership between Mississippi Power, the state’s largest utility, and Silicon Ranch, a solar energy company based in Nashville, Tennessee, the 450-acre solar farm will eventually power 6,500 homes.“I think everybody wants to be more energy independent, and that’s part of the public buzz around the solar industry in our state,” Presley said.Combined, the Southern states would equal the sixth-largest greenhouse gas-emitting country in the world, said Michael Vandenbergh, a law professor at Vanderbilt University. But that argument doesn’t resonate in many conservative areas. “People associate climate mitigation with big government, and that’s particularly true in the South,” he said.What is resonating with utility companies like Mississippi Power and communities like Hattiesburg is the economic argument for cheaper solar power.Despite the lack of renewable-energy-friendly policies and the reluctance from Republican-led state legislatures to address climate change, states across the South and Appalachia―regions that voted heavily for Donald Trump―are rapidly expanding their solar markets.Most of that growth has come from utilities investing in large-scale solar projects, which have dropped in price by nearly 80 percent since 2010 to 6 cents per kilowatt-hour, making them more cost-competitive with coal and natural gas. There’s also a grassroots rooftop solar movement in coal-friendly communities, encouraged by cheap technology and a push for energy independence.To get communities, investors and utilities on board, renewable energy companies like Silicon Ranch have focused on the economic benefits of clean energy, rather than climate science or environmental regulations.“Climate change is never coming up in any development activity [conversations],” said Matt Beasley, chief marketing officer of Silicon Ranch. “It’s not a talking point―it’s always about economics.”When Silicon Ranch was founded in 2011, the idea that a national solar energy company could survive and thrive in Nashville, while the rest of the industry was based in California and the Southwest, “was unimaginable,” Beasley said. But the young team focused its efforts in the sunny Southeast, states with plenty of solar power potential.Since then, utilities around the country have closed an increasing number of aging coal-fired generators, and wind and solar have become the fastest-growing sources of electricity in the U.S. It’s partly due to tax credits for clean energy industries that Congress extended in 2015, which are supposed to phase out in the 2020s. Rural states also got help from an Obama-era Department of Agriculture program called the Rural Energy for America Program, which gave more than $280 million in funding for rural solar projects in 2015 and 2016.More: 2 Reasons Solar Is Booming in Trump Country: Price and Energy Independence
FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Reuters:Polish state-run utilities Energa and Enea have suspended financing of their joint project to build 1 GW power plant in Ostroleka, which could freeze construction works which have already started, they said.Construction of the plant, which was supposed to be Poland’s last coal-fired one, has already started, but Energa and Enea have not yet secured full financing as banks have shied away from backing such projects for environmental and sustainability reasons.Poland’s biggest oil refiner, state-run PKN Orlen, which in December announced plans to take over Energa, signaled that it may opt to replace coal with less carbon-heavy gas as a fuel source for the plant which is built in north-east Poland.Energa and Enea said that PKN Orlen’s plans as well as EU climate policy and a shift in European Investment Bank financing policies have all had an impact on the decision to suspend the project.“The decision to suspend financing the project could also result in suspending the construction works,” the companies said in a statement.The agreement signed with contractors – GE Power and Alstom Power Systems – allows for suspending the construction for up to 90 days. Construction works at Ostroleka were advanced in 5% as of end of January.[Agnieszka Barteczko]More: Polish utilities suspend coal-fueled plant project Polish utilities suspend work on 1GW Ostroleka coal plant
Price crash makes renewable developer Ørsted most valuable Nordic company, topping oil-driven Equinor FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Reuters:The oil price crash has led to Danish offshore wind developer Ørsted overtaking Norwegian oil major Equinor as the most valuable energy company in the Nordics, highlighting the appeal to investors of renewables over fossil fuels.Shares in Equinor slid nearly 18% on Monday as crude prices plunged 25% after top producers Saudi Arabia and Russia began a price war that threatens to swamp global oil markets with supply.At around 09:00 GMT on Tuesday, Equinor’s market value stood at $42 billion, while Ørsted was valued at $45 billion, according to share information on the companies’ websites, the first time Ørsted has overtaken the Norwegian company.The drop in oil prices on Monday was the biggest one-day percentage drop since Jan. 17, 1991 at the outset of the first Gulf War, and for investors highlighted the risk of investing in oil companies. As well as volatile crude prices, oil producers have also been hit by a global shift away from heavily polluting fossil fuels.Ørsted, formerly named DONG Energy, has seen its shares gain more than 40% over the past year, while shares in Equinor have fallen by around the same margin. Ørsted has been rebranding itself as a ‘renewable major’ after it sold its oil and gas business in 2017, courting investors interested in green investments which have seen a boost thanks to policies to protect the environment.“All investors look at Ørsted and say: Here we buy into the future and when they look at the oil companies, including Equinor, they buy into the past,” said head of equity research at Sydbank Jacob Pedersen.[Stine Jacobsen, Nerijus Adomaitis]More: Oil crash makes Danish wind power firm the Nordics’ biggest energy company
FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享S&P Global Market Intelligence ($):Renewables giant Enel SpA is predicting a wave of consolidation in the green energy sector as smaller companies come under financial pressure from the effects of the coronavirus, opening a window for well-financed players to snap up cheap wind and solar assets.“I think the current crisis could potentially open up opportunities, mainly for who has big financial shoulders,” Alberto de Paoli, the Italian utility’s CFO, said on a May 6 earnings call. “It will be possible to identify, towards year-end, those players that managed through the crisis and those that did not,” the CFO said. “A new phase of M&A will arrive — not now, but in the later part of the year.”In the meantime, Enel is expecting the coronavirus crisis to barely dent its own roll-out of new renewables capacity. The company has about 3,200 MW either under construction or ready to build for 2020, with another 400 MW fully permitted. Although impacts from the lockdowns could delay a small share of the capacity, the company expects to catch up with no more than a few months’ delay.The group reported €1.25 billion in profits during the first quarter, a marginal decrease from the prior-year period, although the result was up 11% when excluding one-off impacts. However, total revenues were down 12% to €19.99 billion, partly because coronavirus containment measures led to lower electricity sales in Italy and Spain, two of Enel’s core markets.Since lockdowns were only in effect for the last two weeks of the reporting period, the company expects the impact to be more pronounced in the second quarter. Nevertheless, analysts said the company should see little impact from the crisis, given its largely regulated business and other safeguards.“We continue to believe that networks and renewables growth will be largely unfazed,” analysts at Bernstein wrote in a note ahead of the earnings release. “Exposure to lower power prices is limited via hedging, including an intrinsic hedge embedded in the integrated business models in Italy and Spain.”[Yannic Rack]More ($): Enel predicts ‘new phase of M&A’ after companies emerge from coronavirus crisis Enel says pandemic not likely to slow its renewable energy development plans
FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享24 Pilipinas:The Duterte administration will no longer accept proposals to construct new coal power plants, a dramatic shift in energy policy that counts on declining costs of renewables to attract clean power investments.The moratorium was announced in tandem with the relaxation on foreign ownership limits in geothermal energy, doubling down on the slow transition to clean power seen as a long-term fix to the Philippines’ supply problems and now even sky-high power costs.When President Rodrigo Duterte took office in 2016, his government abandoned a policy of his predecessor that prioritized renewables in favor of one that disregarded the energy source so long as it improves the country’s baseload capacity to meet the demand of a growing economy.As a result, by 2017, the latest period on which data is available, coal projects proliferated, eating up a larger pie of the country’s energy mix at 26.7%. This happened while the share of renewables declined to just 39% in the same year from as much as 46.1% in 2006.At the time, coal and other fossil fuels were still deemed cheaper than renewables even though 15.8% of the former were being imported and therefore translated to import costs passed on to consumers. But times have changed and Sara Ahmed, energy finance analyst at Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, a think tank, said the government’s energy shift is very timely.“The costs trajectory and the current costs of renewable energy, per kilowatt energy when generated domestically is getting cheaper than imported coal and imported gas,” Ahmed said in a phone interview. “The constraints we previously thought we have, we don’t actually have,” she added.More: Government ends energy neutrality, favors renewables ahead of boom Philippines government says no to new coal plant proposals
Photo cred: Ashley WoodringThis past weekend had an unexpected twist for me. I was registered to compete for the seventh time in the annual Jerry’s Baddle race in Saluda, NC. The plan was to do the Green River Narrows kayak portion of this biathlon and tag my buddy Ian to complete the brutal 26 mile bike leg of the race.Unfortunately for me, Ian had a hip injury a few days before the event, and I was out one partner and still registered for the event. After a fruitless search for another partner, and considering all of the smack talk from my friends, it quickly became apparent that I needed to step up to the plate and race the whole thing solo.In case you’re not familiar with this race and this course, the first stretch of the bike portion is a brutal climb up and out of Green River Cove Road on a never-ending series of switchbacks that gain over 1000 feet of elevation in very little distance. I am not a road biker by any means, so I was definitely dreading this portion of the day.My buddy Ben Blake let me use his towny Cannondale bike for the race, and I was ready to rip! 2.5 hours of suffering, here we come.The beautiful thing about Jerry’s Baddle is the community that surrounds it. Check out the Festivals article in this month’s issue of the magazine for more, but this race centers around a fallen friend, and fighting against the disease that took him. Time spent outside exerting yourself is such a great way to honor a friend’s memory.Before I knew it, I was on the course. A couple of bobbles in the rapids below Gorilla, and a frantic portage around the right side of the unrunnable Nutcracker rapid, and I was back in the water with the major boating obstacles behind me. I hit the transition area breathless, and clumsily got into my biking gear.I hit the road motivated and excited to try something new (it was my 2nd time on a road bike), but the spirit started to get crushed out of me as soon as I hit the switchbacks. I consider myself to be in reasonable shape from my kayaking fitness regimen, but this was full-on and unbridled trial by fire on the bike. I had to reach deep inside just to keep those pedal cranks spinning. It is a humbling feeling when you reach the redline for your heart rate and breath, especially at the very beginning of a long track.As other racers passed me and I existed in my own little world of pain, I started to have some revelations. First of all, I realized that I had traveled effortlessly up these switchbacks thousands of times in vehicles powered by internal combustion engines on the Green River shuttle. If it took this much energy to power my body and bike up this hill, how much energy could it possibly take to transport a multi-thousand pound car? There are a lot of things that we take for granted.My mind also shifted back to the reason for the race. I clearly wasn’t in contention for the win out there, but just the ability to paddle that river and ride that course was a privilege that not everyone enjoys. That day, we were all riding for those who suffer from ALS and cannot ride. Many of these people would have given anything for the vivid exertion and present-moment existence that I was leading as I crept up the hill with my vision blurred.After a 30+ minute struggle with the initial hill, things stabilized. I admittedly got a bit lost on the course, but at that point it was all about the journey and not so much about the destination. I still tried to push myself as hard as I would have had I been in a fight for the win, but I had a blast bombing down the steep downhills at over 40 miles per hour, and encouraging the faster racers as they passed me on the uphills.After a grinding final stretch, I finished the race with a total time of 2:29. I couldn’t have a logical conversation with anyone for maybe 20 minutes after finishing, but with a bit of graciously donated food and beer in my body, I started to feel a bit better.As more of a sprint athlete, I don’t often experience extended physical suffering for long periods of time like I did in Jerry’s Baddle. In spite of the discomfort, being alone with your thoughts in a world of physical exertion and hurt can be very purifying and rewarding. It’s nothing but you, your heartrate, your breath, and your thoughts.We’ll see if that theory holds true in this upcoming weekend’s Bearwallow Beast 5k. I hope to see you out there!
First, a taste of what parkour (executed properly) should look like. Then, what happens the 9 times out of 10 that you try to jump from your buddy’s balcony to the stair railing outside: a big, fat, sometimes funny, mostly painful, FAIL.
Now is the time for all great beer lovers to come to the aid of their local craft brewery.This is the bracket you’ve all been waiting for: a battle of the brews — Blue Ridge brews. We are now down to the Final Four of our six-week Microbrew Madness tournament. We did the heavy lifting by narrowing your choices down to 32 of the region’s top craft breweries, and pairing them up in a five-round bracket system.Now the rest is up to you.Vote here now!Readers may vote daily. So be sure to spread the word and show some love for your favorite local microbrewery.And, when you’re sipping that pint of IPA or carefully testing a flight at one of the tournament’s breweries — snap a shot with your phone and tag the photo #microbrewmadness. Cheers!
If you’re looking for an unassuming whitewater mecca, look no further than Ohiopyle, Pennsylvania. With a tiny year-round population of 77, Ohiopyle itself is diminutive, but the surrounding scenery is outstanding, and the Youghiogheny River, which horseshoe bends around the center of town, is one of the top whitewater destinations in the country.So intertwined are the waters of the Yough with this town’s geographical character,that its very name comes from an Iroquois word meaning frothy water. Beyond whitewater, the Youghiogheny offers some of the finest fly-fishing in Pennsylvania. When looking to match the hatch on the Yough, concentrate on the portion that extends from the brink of Ohiopyle Falls to the dam at Confluence, Pa.DID YOU KNOW? In addition to its world-renowned status as a haven for whitewater enthusiasts, Ohiopyle is also situated along one of America’s best bike trails. At 150 miles long, the Great Allegheny Passage is a recently completed “rail to trail” that stretches from Pittsburgh, PA to Cumberland, MD.Vote now at blueridgeoutdoors.com!
Fifteen years and six records later, the Wrinkle Neck Mules are still hard at it.Abstruse.I consider myself a man of many words, but I came across that word for the first time in my 42 years just last week. I was wandering around the internet, checking out what other folks had to say about I Never Thought It Would Go This Far, the new release from Richmond’s Wrinkle Neck Mules. A writer used abstruse to describe one of the tracks from the record and I had no idea what he meant.After consulting Webster, I learned that abstruse means “esoteric” or “complex.” Having spun the new record many times over the last couple weeks, I don’t know if I am buying into that just yet. Maybe it is just too fancy a word. Maybe I haven’t dug deep enough yet. I don’t know.What I do know is that I Never Thought It Would Go This Far is an alt-country gem. The Wrinkle Neck Mules, now fifteen years into their career as a band, crank out lyrically rich, twang-laden roots rock tunes drenched in gravely vocals and crunchy guitar.There is nothing abstruse about that.I recently caught up with Andy Stepanian, guitarist and singer for the band, to chat about the new record.BRO – You guys have been doing this for over fifteen years. Considering the title of your new record, did you think it would go this far?AS – Although the album’s title isn’t solely a reference to longevity, I’d say we certainly never thought this would last 15+ years at the outset. We probably wouldn’t have named ourselves “Wrinkle Neck Mules” if we did. I don’t think any of us thought we would be using those three words in that order for so long.BRO – You had a tune, “Central Daylight Time,” featured recently in a Geico commercial. What did that mean to the band?AS – Ironically, it gave us a lot of credibility. One would think that one of your songs being on a television commercial would do quite the opposite, but, for a lot of folks, it actually took that for them to feel like we were legit. You also get paid for this privilege, which is mighty nice.BRO – We are featuring “Heaven’s High” on this month’s Trail Mix. What’s the story behind the song?AS – In essence, it’s a song about relief and how unburdening the feeling of being relieved can be. Like nearly all of our songs, it’s a pretty non-linear narrative and open for the listener to interpret, but underlying it all is something fairly heavy and scary that turned out not to be so. Don’t be alarmed, though, as it’s a pretty upbeat song.BRO – You guys recently shot a video for “Whistlers & Sparklers.” If you could debut the video on MTV, which old school veejay would bring it on?AS – Probably Doctor Dre and Ed Lover from Yo! MTV Raps.The Wrinkle Neck Mules just came off of a run of shows supporting the release of I Never Thought It Would Go This Far. It looks like the band is taking it easy in March, but fans can catch them in Atlanta, Charleston (SC), Wilmington (NC), and Vienna and Charlottesville (VA) in early April.Be sure to check out “Heaven’s High” on this month’s Trail Mix. And for more information on tour dates and how you can get a copy of the new record, please check out the band’s website.