Iowa Utilities’ Strategy Seen as Effort to Curb Solar FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Karen Uhlenhuth for Midwest Energy News:Five months after state regulators strongly urged them to develop pilot projects that would “expand renewable (distributed generation) in Iowa,” Iowa’s two largest utilities have proposed new rate systems that critics contend would do just the opposite.“It’s now official,” said Andy Johnson, a clean-energy advocate and the director of the Winneshiek Energy District. “MidAmerican and Alliant are presenting road maps to move away from net metering in Iowa.”On Monday, the utilities filed documents with the Iowa Utilities Board, outlining in fairly general terms how they might modify the way they treat distributed wind and solar generators owned by customers.“Our company is making a thoughtful move towards using cleaner energy,” said Justin Foss, speaking for Alliant. “We have listened to customers and there is growing interest in having a direct connection with renewable energy generation. Our goal is to create program options that make it easier for customers to access solar energy.”Both utilities said they intend to develop community solar arrays, which they would own. And MidAmerican said it intends to install a one-megawatt battery in conjunction with its community solar system, to better understand how to integrate storage with the grid.“I think that’s a positive,” said Josh Mandelbaum, a lawyer for the Environmental Law & Policy Center who generally advocates for more renewable energy. “Coupling generation with battery technology allows you to capture the full benefits of distributed generation.”Johnson was less impressed with the utilities’ plans to build their own solar generation.“There’s nothing wrong with utilities owning renewables,” he said. “We think they should own more solar – and faster. But don’t try to exclude the rest of us from building or owning wind or solar and getting just compensation.“That’s what this docket is about…but the utilities are trying to take it towards utility ownership and towards policies that disallow and penalize customer and community ownership.”Full article: Iowa utilities propose to ‘pilot’ a rate hike for solar customers
FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Electric Light and Power:Salt River Project has initiated a program to support the installation and use of battery energy storage systems for its residential customers.The Battery Storage Incentive Program will provide up to $1,800 ($150 per DC-kWh) for customers who purchase and install qualifying lithium ion battery technologies. The program will be available for up to 4,500 SRP residential electric customers on a first-come, first-served basis during a 36-month period, beginning May 1, 2018.“While we continue to add new, renewable energy resources, SRP is also conducting research to determine how increasing amounts of renewable energy will impact our electrical system,” said Scott Scharli, SRP’s manager of residential and commercial solar. “The battery storage program will give us an opportunity to collect data and study how battery storage impacts customer energy use and the SRP grid.”“If we can help our customers reduce their demand from the grid, SRP may be able to incrementally decrease the amount of assets needed in the future to serve our customers’ electrical load,” Scharli said. “Among other potential areas, SRP intends to study how customers use battery systems and how these systems perform in our desert environment.”More: Salt River Project Offers Incentive For Home Energy Storage Salt River Project Offers Residential Storage Incentives
Analysts say Texas lignite mining faces grim future FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享S&P Global Market Intelligence ($):As renewable energy sources increasingly displace coal-fired power generation in Texas, the state’s lignite producers and Powder River Basin thermal coal miners could see a key market dry up.Wind and solar are entering the grid “at very low price points,” and if natural gas remains cheap, more coal-fired generation will likely be driven into retirement, especially older plants with higher operating costs, said Fred Beach, assistant director for policy studies at the University of Texas at Austin’s Energy Institute. “This has nothing to do with politics,” Beach said. “This is just pure economics.”Beach estimated that Texas coal mining will shut down entirely within a decade if plant retirements continue. The state’s low-quality lignite coal is not valuable enough to pay to transport, and production is already dwindling, with North Dakota surpassing Texas in the first half of 2018 as the largest U.S. lignite producer.In the first 10 months of 2018, five Texas mines sent all their coal to generators in the state, totaling 19.5 million tons, according to data compiled by S&P Global Market Intelligence.While a shrinking demand for coal would be a blow to Texas mining companies, Wyoming coal producers would also take a hit. More ($): Texas coal mining could end within a decade as renewables take over
New wind dominates expected capacity additions in U.S. Midcontinent-ISO transmission region FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享S&P Global Market Intelligence ($):Nearly three-quarters of the power generation capacity expected to come into service in the Midcontinent-ISO region in 2019 is to be fueled by wind, according to an S&P Global Market Intelligence analysis.In the Midcontinent-ISO region, stretching from the Gulf Coast of Louisiana to the U.S./Canada border in the Upper Midwest, 8,563 MW of new capacity is expected to begin operation, comprised of about 6,200 MW of wind and 2,120 MW of new natural gas-fired capacity. The project pipeline also includes the 50-MW St. Mary Clean Energy Center waste heat project in Louisiana, 171 MW of solar, and 34 MW of hydro. Another 775 MW are expected to be retired, leaving the region with a net gain of 7,788 MW.Among the capacity set to be retired, WEC Energy Group Inc. plans to shut the 359-MW Presque Isle coal plant in Marquette County, Mich., in May due to unfavorable economics and competition from natural gas. The 312-MW Henderson William L. Newman Station 2 Generation Plant owned by the Henderson (Ky.) City Utility Commission is also scheduled to shut in February.About 48% of the new capacity is in advanced development or under construction, as defined by S&P Global Market Intelligence. Some of the new combined-cycle facilities under construction are Entergy Corp.’s 945-MW St. Charles Power Station in Louisiana and Alliant Energy Corp.’s 732-MW West Riverside Energy Center in Wisconsin.The larger renewable energy projects in later stages of development are mostly wind. Those projects include 468 MW from a combination Alliant Energy’s Upland Prairie Wind Farm (New Wind) and the English Farms I Wind Project (New Wind), which the company is building as part of a plan to add 1,000 MW of wind in Iowa by 2020. Out of the 171 MW of new solar, about 31% are in Minnesota, while the rest are planned in five other states.More ($): ISO Outlook 2019: Wind makes up nearly three-fourths of new MISO power supply
FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Power Magazine:The Arkansas Public Service Commission on Jan. 8 approved a plan to retire the Dolet Hills power plant, a coal-fired unit in Mansfield, Louisiana that serves part of the state. The Sierra Club, one of the environmental groups that had called for the plant’s closure, announced the Arkansas PSC had approved a settlement with Southwestern Electric Power Company (SWEPCO), a partner in sharing the plant’s electricity production with plant owner Central Louisiana Electric Co. (Cleco).The Dolet Hills plant burns lignite. The facility’s one coal-fired unit entered service in 1986. Cleco in January 2019 had said it would only operate the plant during summer months.Cleco had invested in upgrades to the Dolet Hills plant in 2015 and 2016, and had previously said the plant was not expected to retire until 2046. Environmental groups had long sought closure of the plant due to pollution concerns.Both SWEPCO and Cleco in their 2019 integrated resource plans (IRP) said they were preparing to shift their focus away from Dolet Hills, instead concentrating on power generation from other sources, including renewables. SWEPCO in its IRP had said it would “continue to evaluate operations” of the Louisiana plant.Cleco in its IRP said it wanted to procure up to 400 MW of electricity from solar, and up to 1 GW of capacity from wind, by 2038. SWEPCO, a subsidiary of American Electric Power, in its IRP said it plans to add 1.4 GW of wind generation capacity over the next decade.Cleco in its August 2019 IRP filing said prices for lignite coal had increased, negatively impacting the economics of the Dolet Hills plant, and noting “the economic difficulties that this coal unit is experiencing,” particularly when competing with natural gas-fired power in a state that ranks behind only Texas, Pennsylvania, and Oklahoma in natural gas production, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).[Darrell Proctor]More: Deal announced to close Louisiana coal unit Arkansas regulators approve plan to close 721MW Dolet Hills coal plant
FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Bloomberg:Record-high renewables growth is transforming Australia’s electricity landscape, pushing out coal plants and lowering prices and emissions.Solar and wind output during the fourth quarter within the five jurisdictions that make up the National Electricity Market increased 39% from a year earlier, the Australian Energy Market Operator said Monday in its quarterly report. That helped cut power-generation emissions 5% to the lowest in data going back to 2001 and slashed wholesale prices by almost a fifth.“Record variable renewable energy generation growth in 2019 is expected to continue into 2020, as the large amount of new capacity currently being accredited is likely to reach full generation by mid-2020,” AEMO said in the report. “During December 2019 (and into January 2020), extreme heat, generator and transmission line outages, and bushfires tested the NEM power system and led to price volatility.”Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government has faced increased criticism over its lack of a coherent climate policy following the devastating bushfires that swept across the country this summer. Over the weekend it confirmed its staunch support of the coal industry in the face of a growing backlash against the fuel by giving financial backing to a study into a new plant.In Western Australia, which is not part of the national market, a 47% year-on-year increase in wind generation in the quarter outpaced growth in coal and rooftop solar, according to the report.[Rob Verdonck]More: Solar is beating out coal in Australia, pushing down emissions Record growth in Australian renewables is pushing down electricity prices, threatening coal
FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Nikkei Asia:Vietnam aims to double use of renewable energy and slash carbon emissions 15% by 2030, which could reduce reliance on coal in a country threatened by climate change and power outages.Solar, wind and other alternative energy will comprise 15% to 20% of the power supply within a decade, according to a Monday post on the government website, up from roughly 10% now.This will help the country implement the 2015 Paris climate accord, in which it pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions on its own by 8%, or 25% with foreign aid, by 2030. After reducing emissions 15% by 2030, Hanoi targets a 20% reduction by 2045, according to the government.Vietnam has phased in various incentives to spark renewable investments, including attractive prices paid by the state for privately produced solar and wind power, as well as the right for private companies to sell power directly to consumers.Despite growing pollution concerns, Vietnam had planned to start more coal-fired plants as part of the national Power Development Plan 7, or PDP 7. But energy analyst Cecillia Zheng of IHS Markit notes that about half these coal-based projects could be canceled or at least suspended. Environmentalists have urged Vietnam to scrap coal-fired plants, which have also become harder to finance as lenders like Singapore’s OCBC Bank and the Japanese government pull back.Vietnam considers itself one of the five countries under the greatest threat from climate change, due to its long coastline and exposure to monsoons, saline intrusion and erosion. The country hopes its goal of cutting emissions will help reduce the threat.[Lien Hoang]More: Vietnam aims doubling use of renewables by 2030 to slash CO2 Vietnam looks to double renewable energy generation by 2030
BY GRAHAM AVERILLClick here for a MapHow much is the view of a forest worth? If you’re talking about the view of the Globe Forest in North Carolina’s High Country, it’s worth hundreds of millions. The 25,000-acre tract of land is an integral part of the sweeping views that tourists see from Grandfather Mountain, the town of Blowing Rock, and the Blue Ridge Parkway. The Blue Ridge Parkway alone brings $150 million annually to Watauga County, and the Globe Forest is a significant chunk of the quintessential mountain vistas that tourists come to see.Not surprisingly, when the U.S. Forest Service proposed logging the area in 2006, the local community immediately balked. The timber sale was proposing to plunder their most valuable economic resource. In response, the town council of Blowing Rock proposed turning the Globe and its surrounding ecosystem into the Grandfather National Scenic Area (GNSA), a federal designation that would preserve the viewshed by permanently protecting the 25,000-acre forest from commercial logging.“The GNSA was originally proposed as an environmental initiative, but really, it’s a matter of economic development, which is why it has such massive support from the community,” says Chris Joyell, campaign coordinator for Wild South, the environmental organization that’s putting its weight behind the proposal.Establishing the Grandfather National Scenic Area would take an act of Congress, and currently, there is no bill proposed in the House to that end. In fact, the two Congressional delegates who represent the districts of the proposed scenic area—Virginia Foxx (R) and Patrick McHenry (R)—don’t currently support the designation. They’ve refused to introduce a scenic area bill, even though the designation has massive support among their voters. However, the two candidates running against the incumbents in November—Roy Carter (D) and Daniel Johnson (D)—have fallen all over themselves to support the scenic area. Carter has even said it would be the first bill he introduces if he’s elected to Congress.“We have a lot of momentum right now,” Joyell says. “The congressional sponsor is the domino we need to fall. It’s a bill that would cost the taxpayers absolutely nothing while bringing money and jobs to the region.”Meanwhile, the U.S. Forest Service is moving forward with the proposed Globe timber sale, although they have softened the scope of the logging within that particular project. The original Globe timber sale called for 212 acres of logging, 100 acres of which focused on stands of old growth. The Forest Service has removed the old growth from the sale and is promising to keep the visual impacts of the logging at a minimum.The local community, however, isn’t quick to believe the promises of the Forest Service. Fifteen years ago, the Forest Service clearcut large portions of the Globe and surrounding areas, drastically marring the views seen from Blowing Rock.“I remember hearing tourists refer to the last timber cut in the Globe as ‘a bad haircut,’” says John Wilson, whose family owns the actual Blowing Rock. “Tourism has already been hit hard by high gas prices and tough economic times, and tension between the Forest Service and the High Country community rise when a timber cut is proposed in an area like this where tourism and visual quality are so important.”Terry Seyden, information officer for the U.S. Forest Service, has assured the community that the clear-cutting that so many fear is no longer a common practice of the Forest Service in sensitive areas like the Globe. “This project calls for small cuts, 11 acres in size, where we leave enough trees so that in a lot of cases, you can’t even tell where we’ve logged. With our timber practices now, the cuts blend much better than they used to. And they address the needs of the overall forest health in terms of wildlife habitat creation and wildland fire risk reduction.”What the Forest Service’s logging practices don’t take into account, however, is recreation. Currently, there’s only one official trail that explores the 25,000 acres in question. An expanded trail system would draw even more tourism dollars to the High Country.The Forest Service says it is open to maximizing the recreation potential in the area. “We want to have a discussion about the existing recreation opportunities and what possibilities we have to enhance recreation in that area. We have a constrained budget, but any time we can work with organized groups to help meet those recreation needs, everyone wins.”
The Interior Department’s Fish and Wildlife Service is finally going through the backlog of over 258 threatened species in the United States to decide which ones will be granted protection under the 1973 Endangered Species Act. The long-delayed action comes out the the 2011 settlement of two lawsuits with conservationists. According to the schedule drafted by the service on February 8, they will decide by September whether to add 97 species to the endangered list. The plan is to have gone through the entire list by 2018.The list includes the eastern massasauga rattlesnake and several other species from the east coast.
Sixteenth birthdays are special, but when the celebration is for an indie music festival you can expect that the party will be like no other. This year will mark the 16th time that MACRoCk, a festival that takes place in Harrisonburg, Virginia, will have been held. For an event that came close to demise and was re-born, and for the city that hosts it, this milestone couldn’t be sweeter.Harrisonburg, a town recently featured in BRO’s list of Best Mid-Sized Outdoor Cities, is a community centered around James Madison University, a state college with 20,000 students. In the 1990s many of the college’s student radio station staff made an annual pilgrimage to the College Music Journal festival held in New York City. Each year they became more disillusioned as the festival went from its indie grass roots to corporate sponsorship. The JMU students thought they could do better themselves.In 1997 they organized and held the first Mid-Atlantic College Radio Conference (MACRoCk). The first year’s event featured a few bands in public venues on the college campus. The festival grew steadily over the next few years until it included over 120 bands and drew a crowd of 5,000 by the early 2000s. By this point MACRoCk had showcased talent the likes of Elliot Smith, Fugazi, Animal Collective, The Wrens, Coheed and Cambria, Avail, Dashboard Confessional, The Walkmen and War on Drugs. National touring acts would plan their yearly schedule so that they would be in Virginia in spring to play the event.Then, like any good rock and roll saga, things started to come apart. The festival’s burgeoning size was beginning to stretch the campus’s capacity and the cost of renting the university’s facilities created a growing mountain of debt for the event.“The relationship between the university and the festival became adversarial and the event lost compatibility with the campus,” recalled Andy Perrine, Associate Vice President for Communications for JMU and the event’s facility advisor during its peak in the early 2000s.Following the 2006 festival organizers knew something had to change. They skipped 2007’s festival as they continued to reorganize. In 2008, they were back. The revived MACRoCk cut its ties with the university, incorporated as a not-for-profit and differed from its previous incarnations in one key way. It had moved a few blocks down the street from the JMU campus to downtown Harrisonburg.The once vibrant downtown of the county seat town had suffered over the years. Like all towns Harrisonburg began to suburbanize with housing developments, chain stores and strip malls pulling businesses and their patrons from the downtown area and clustering them around the interstate. Then came a wave of urban renewal, a subtle way of describing the pulling down of historic buildings and making parking decks in their place. But in the last decade Harrisonburg’s downtown has staged a comeback, with former industrial spaces renovated into housing and retail and with original, local businesses cropping up in formerly empty store fronts.The festival’s move meshed closely with the goals of Harrisonburg’s revitalization effort, known as the Downtown Renaissance, which was formed 11 years ago to inject life back into the downtown area. They quickly got the area designated a Virginia Main Street Community and made Harrisonburg the first in the state to have a Designated Arts and Cultural District. The new MACRoCk would draw crowds downtown, where the eateries are local, the art is original and the beer is craft.“It was a win-win for the city and the festival,” said Perrine, who has a unique perspective because he was not only involved with MACRoCk, he was a founder and current board member of the Downtown Renaissance.Festival regulars were worried the move would change the event and lose the momentum that MACRoCk had been building over the years. But the move brought new life to the festival. Free of the constraints and limitations of a public college the event has expanded its scope all while tailoring its size to the smaller theaters and stages of the downtown venues. It also found new sources of talent and support as it moved into downtown Harrisonburg.“MACRoCk is now much more the Harrisonburg community than it is the JMU community,” said Marisa Cagnoli, a senior communications major at JMU who is the head of the student committee that runs the festival. Cagnoli noted that local businesses provide venues and donate to support the event, a local Web designer maintains MACRoCk’s Web site and local artists design the festival’s art.In the years following its move MACRoCk proved the momentum was still there, featuring breakthrough acts like Best Coast, the Bowerbirds, Screaming Females, Bon Iver’s S. Carey and The Last Bison.“MACRoCk keeps getting bigger but it keeps the same level of energy,” Perrine said. “It hasn’t lost its character and it’s not about the big name acts. It hasn’t been institutionalized or ruined by corporate sponsorship.”The present festival has stayed true to its campus days. It’s is an eclectic mix of the top mid-Atlantic indie music talent presented with a socially conscious, DIY (do-it-yourself) attitude. MACRoCk has not only the sounds, but the sights and smells of an indie music festival. It also features informative panel discussions and an indie label expo. It’s the best of both worlds, a small, intimate festival with venues within walking distance mixed with a broad palate of music, from hip-hop and death metal to electronica and Americana, of a big festival. And at a time when festival tickets can cost you triple digits a two-day MACRoCk pass is still just $20 pre-ordered.“Our goal is to expose people to the mid-Atlantic music scene,” Cagnoli said. “We do it with volunteers and that grass roots mindset, focusing on community and a DIY ethic. MACRoCk gives you the chance to experience what people are capable of doing on their own and what can be accomplished without corporate sponsorship.”It all takes place in a unique environment. Typical downtown life in Harrisonburg goes on as MACRoCk takes place. Casual dinners mix with punk kids. Art aficionados stand shoulder-to-shoulder with indie rockers.“MACRoCk is really a showcase of the best of what used to exist in a lot of places, which is a funky, gritty, down-to-earth scene,” Perrine noted.This year’s MACRoCk will feature acts familiar to BRO readers from D.C. to Georgia, including Julianna Barwick, Dope Body and Cheap Time. The festival’s panels include a screening of From the Back of the Room, a film that follows the female DIY punk movement, and includes a discussion with director Amy Odem and rockers Michelle Northam of Sick Fix and Alissa Straiter of Passengers. Other panels will address topics from screen printing to running a record label.“MACRoCk is never the same from year to year,” Cagnoli said. “The structure is the same, but not the content. Every person comes to MACRoCk and leaves with their own unique inspiration.”It hasn’t been an easy journey for MACRoCk. The festival, like the music industry itself, has experienced its ups and downs. But by staying true to its roots and finding strength in the local community it has survived and thrived for 16 years. So for two nights in April a music festival will celebrate its new lease on life and a city’s downtown will be celebrating along with it.This year’s MACRoCk will take place April 5 and 6. For more information, to see the line-up or to buy tickets visit www.macrock.org.