High-Profile Skeptic on Solar Power Has Changed His Mind FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Joe Ryan for Bloomberg News:David Keith, a Harvard University scientist, has long doubted solar energy’s potential to compete on cost with conventional power sources. Now he sees the light.“I was wrong,” largely because the fundamentals of solar power have changed, Keith, a professor of applied physics and public policy, wrote in a recent essay. “One can now build systems in the world’s sunny locations and get very cheap power.”His reversal reflects the steep declines in producing electricity from sunlight. Even without government subsidies, power from large solar farms in some regions is now significantly below $40 a megawatt-hour and is on pace to drop below $20 by 2020, Keith wrote. That would be the cheapest power on the planet.It’s a significant shift from his earlier stance, that high costs would relegate solar power to being “green bling for the wealthy.” “Obviously the market was created by subsidies,” Keith said in an interview Tuesday. “But the subsidy-created market really did drive this supply chain innovation.”Full article: Harvard Scientist, Longtime Solar Skeptic, Now Sees the Light
Coal’s Share of U.S. Electricity-Generation Market Dips to 29.4% FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享SNL:Coal’s share of U.S. generation sank below 30% in September.According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s latest “Electric Power Monthly” released Dec. 1, over the same period, gas-fired generation declined 7.1% to 116.7 million MWh, accounting for 34.9% of the net total. Meanwhile, coal-fired generation declined 13.9% versus the prior-year period to 98.4 million MWh, to account for 29.4% of the nation’s electricity.Renewable output climbed 11.2% year over year to 47.8 million MWh as output from hydroelectric; solar; and other renewable resources, including wind, all increased.More ($): US coal generation market share under 30% in September
U.S. Wind Production Seen as Surpassing Hydro in 2018 FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Huffington Post:Wind power is forecast to surpass hydroelectricity for the first time as the nation’s top source of renewable electricity sometime in the next year, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said Wednesday.The sector is expected to produce 6.4 percent of utility-scale electricity in 2018, and 6.9 percent in 2019, propelled by a construction boom of new turbines across the country.Few new hydropower plants are in the works, so new electricity generation depends on how much rainfall and water runoff pools in existing dams and reservoirs. Hydropower provided 7.4 percent of utility-scale generation in 2017 ― a particularly wet year ― but that figure is projected to fall to about 6.5 percent in 2018 and 6.6 percent in 2019.“Although changes in weather patterns also affect wind generation, the forecast for wind power output is more dependent on the capacity and timing of new wind turbines coming online,” Owen Comstock, the lead industry economist at the EIA, wrote in a press release.The news marks a new milestone in wind’s steady rise. Wind energy usurped hydropower’s generating capacity for the first time in February 2017 as turbine installations tripled from 2008. “What this means for generation is, basically, we’re seeing greater, bigger wind turbines, and more turbines that are better situated for the environment that they’re in,” Alex Morgan, North America wind analyst at BNEF, told HuffPost by phone Wednesday morning. “So, more bang for your buck.”Part of what’s driving the boom is a rush to build turbines to get the full benefits of the production tax credit. Congress extended the subsidy, which has been in place since the early 1990s, for five years in 2015. But the credit began phasing down by 20 percent in 2017, kick-starting a dash to build as many turbines as possible before the federal benefit expires.Yet states are expected to continue providing incentives for wind energy long after 2020. The offshore wind industry ― a popular form of energy in Europe, though currently limited in North America to five turbines off the coast of Block Island, Rhode Island ― is only expected to gain steam after 2021, according to BNEF. For example, in New York, where the state plans to get half its electricity from renewables in 12 years, a series of projects off the coast of Long Island are expected to provide 2.4 gigawatts of energy by 2030, enough to power 1.25 million homes.“It’s no surprise to see wind power gaining in generation nationally like this as it now competes on long-term contract price in many markets across the U.S.,” Dylan Reed, head of congressional affairs at the trade group Advanced Energy Economy, told HuffPost by email.More: Wind To Blow Past Hydropower As Top Clean Electricity Source In Major Milestone
Canadian pension fund, Williams form pipeline entity targeting Marcellus and Utica basins FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Reuters:Canada Pension Plan Investment Board is expanding its presence in the North American natural gas market through a $3.8 billion joint venture with U.S. energy firm Williams Cos Inc, which will hold pipeline assets in the Marcellus and Utica shale basins, the biggest gas-producing region in the United States.Canada’s largest pension fund will invest about $1.34 billion for a 35 percent stake in the venture, with Williams holding the rest and operating the combined business, the companies said on Monday.“This joint venture will provide CPPIB additional exposure to the attractive North American natural gas market, aligning with our growing focus on energy transition,” said Avik Dey, managing director, head of energy & resources, CPPIB.Pipeline infrastructure in the Utica and Marcellus shale basins, which span Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia, are attracting huge investments after a resurgence in drilling activity over the last few years led to tight pipeline capacity.A privately held company backed by CPPIB and Encino Energy last year signed a deal to buy the Chesapeake Energy’s entire natural gas assets in Ohio.The companies said on Monday that the venture includes Williams’ Ohio Valley Midstream system in the Marcellus shale basin and the Utica East Ohio Midstream system.More: CPPIB, Williams to form $3.8 billion Marcellus-Utica shale gas venture
FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Renewables Now:The share of renewables in electricity generation in Spain jumped to 48.6% this November from 30.4% recorded the month before, according to provisional data by Spanish grid operator Red Electrica de Espana (REE).During the first 11 months of the year, 36.2% of all electricity in the country was produced from renewables.Spain’s wind farms produced 7,396 GWh in November, up 62.2% year-on-year, and succeeded in dethroning nuclear power. The wind share rose to 32.7% from 18.1% estimated in October.Spain’s demand for electricity declined by 0.4% year-on-year to an estimated 21,966 GWh in November, and by 1.7% to 242,395 GWh in the first 11 months of 2019.The Spanish mainland registered a drop in demand to 20,785 GWh, down by 0.6% year-on-year in November, with renewables producing 50.4% of all electricity. Production from wind farms grew to 7,271 GWh, registering a 60.6% year-on-year boost. The share of wind power in the peninsula reached 33.8%.More: Spain’s renewables hit 48.6% share with Nov wind power Renewables have accounted for 36% of Spain’s 2019 electricity generation through November
Renewables generated nearly 45% of Great Britain’s electricity in the first quarter FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Renew Economy:The first three months of 2020 were a landmark quarter for Great Britain, with renewable providing more power than from any other major power source, providing 45% of all electricity generation, and beating out total fossil fuel generation, including coal and gas.The milestone moment was highlighted in European power analysts EnAppSys’ latest quarterly energy market report, covering the first three months of 2020.In total, across the first quarter, renewable energy generated 35.4TWh, accounting for 44.6% of all power generation across Great Britain, followed by 29.1% from gas-fired power plants, 15.3% from nuclear power, 7.3% from imports, and only 3.7% from coal.This means that not only did renewables generated more electricity than any other power source, but also means in turn that renewables beat out all fossil fuels combined (gas plus coal).There were a number of factors which helped lead to this milestone moment, with extreme weather conditions across the first three months of the year in Great Britain resulting in consistently high levels of wind generation. Similarly, as with many countries around the world, the spreading coronavirus pandemic led to declining electricity demand in March.Despite the contributing factors, this is nevertheless an important milestone for Great Britain’s electricity sector, as its renewable electricity generation was already on track to overtake fossil fuels this year based on historical trends.[Joshua Hill]More: Renewables were Britain’s main power source in first quarter
Ameren backs 2050 net zero carbon goal, but plans long coal phaseout FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Greentech Media:Ameren has joined the ranks of U.S. utilities pledging to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, with a long-range plan that invests nearly $8 billion in renewable energy and accelerates some coal plant closures — although it will retain much of its coal fleet through 2040.Like other net-zero carbon goals, Ameren’s will rely on “further advancements in innovative, carbon-free technologies and constructive federal and state energy and economic policies” to reach its final goal, CEO Warner Baxter said in a Monday statement.In its 15-year integrated resource plan (IRP) released Monday for review by Missouri regulators, the utility serving about 2.4 million customers in Missouri and Illinois plans to invest nearly $8 billion to add 3.1 gigawatts of renewables to its generation mix by 2030, hitting a total of 5.4 GW by 2040. That will allow it to reduce carbon emissions by 50 percent from 2005 levels by 2030 and by 85 percent by 2040, accelerating by a decade its previous plan to cut carbon emissions 80 percent by 2050.Ameren Missouri’s 10.1 GW of generating capacity, measured in terms of 2020 peak summer demand, incudes 5.3 GW of coal, 2.8 GW of natural gas, 1.2 GW of nuclear, 820 megawatts of hydroelectric and 13 MW of solar. Ameren Illinois doesn’t own generation; it acquires generation resources through a procurement process managed by the Illinois Power Agency or through retail electric suppliers.The new IRP and zero-carbon goals accelerate the growth of renewables called for in a Smart Energy Plan the utility filed with Missouri regulators in February. That includes spending about $1.2 billion to acquire two Missouri wind projects with 700 MW of generation capacity expected to be complete by this year and in service in early 2021. Ameren Missouri has also initiated a request for proposals to solicit bids for wind and solar projects; it plans to create a renewable subscription program to expand on existing subscriber and community solar programs. With these avenues for renewables growth, Ameren expects to add about 1.2 GW of solar, 300 megawatts of wind and 900 megawatts of a combination of those two resources by 2030.The timeline for coal plant retirements has also been accelerated for its Sioux Energy Center coal plant, now expected to close by 2028, and its Rush Island Energy Center, which will shutter by 2039. Ameren already planned to close its Meramec Energy Center coal plant by 2022 and two units of its four-unit Labadie Energy Center plant by 2036, removing three-quarters of its coal-fired energy generating capacity by 2040. All remaining coal-fired plants are scheduled to retire by 2042.[Jeff St. John]More: Ameren sets goal of net-zero by 2050, plots major wind and solar expansion in Midwest
As I sit and type this on my front porch, the beauty of the day today almost makes me giggle.Spring has hit in full swing, and this promises to be a gorgeous week in the mountains. As I organize myself for a busy and exciting summer of traveling, competing, writing, and managing my business, I am more thankful than ever for the ability to get into my kayak, clear my mind, and work on the basics.It is an extremely cathartic way of re-centering.The forward stroke in a kayak is so simple… place blade in water, pull, and transfer energy to boat. It is amazing how something so fundamental can keep us occupied for a lifetime of learning. It doesn’t matter if you get on the river two weekends a year or if you are training for the Olympics in London this summer, that most basic of strokes can always be finessed or tweaked in some way.Similar to the subject of the Monogamy article in last month’s issue of Blue Ridge Outdoors, my local class II training rapids have seen me through a lot of different phases in my life. My connection with it first began when I moved to this town, the place that I now hope to spend the rest of my life in. Since then, those waters have helped me through the tribulations of getting an undergrad degree, dealing with failed relationships, losing loved ones, and struggling to make ends meet financially. While helping me through the lows, that training ground has also been an enabler in the quest to be the athlete and individual that I want to be. It represents thousands of hours of sweat, and constant dissection of every minute detail of paddling technique. It feels good to reap the rewards of that effort when the stars align, and I have a strong showing in competition.I was speaking with a fellow paddler about this subject recently, and the conversation made me think about my sport a little bit differently. When it comes down to it, a kayaker with a paddle is a nearly perfect union for power transfer from body to water. The powerful core muscles of the human body allow incredible torque and power to be applied to that blade, and that makes it possible for paddlers to maneuver lithely around slalom gates or other obstacles, accelerate instantly to a sprint for short periods of time, or slow their stroke down to a sustainable metronome for 250+ mile paddles in 24 hours.Couple that with the ability to roll upright when capsized, and a low enough center of gravity to navigate seemingly impossible rapids, and you start to see why so many people are pulled in by the allure of running rivers in a kayak.But everything still hinges on that forward stroke. The funny thing is that every kayaker still has their own individual style. I could recognize many of my friends in completely foreign gear if I had to, simply due to the fact that I have seen how they move and deal with different obstacles that the river throws at them.Paddling a kayak is a constant refinement and self-discovery process, and taking things back to the basics is a humble acknowledgement that we still have much to learn. The expression, “it’s about the journey, not the destination” could not ring more true here.Whatever your passion is, get outside this week and take it back to the fundamentals. There’s always something new to learn.
Photo: Courtesy: Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy/Bearwallow Mountain There’s a 50-mile trail system in the works for the Hickory Nut Gorge, a dramatic canyon on the edge of the Southern Appalachians 30 miles east of Asheville. The giant loop of singletrack will connect high elevation balds, rocky outcroppings with views of the Smoky and Black Mountains, swimming holes and trout streams, backcountry campsites, even a fire tower. It will be the thread that ties together the gorge, a chasm known for its dramatic rock features and world-class rock climbing. And it’s being built almost entirely on private property.The Hickory Nut Gorge Trail Network (HNGT) is the brainchild of Peter Barr, trails coordinator for the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy (CMLC), a non-profit that preserves land with private funding, then typically opens that land to the public, often building new trails with sweat equity donated by the Carolina Mountain Club. For the HNGT, the conservancy is looking beyond their own properties and buying public right-of-ways from private landowners throughout the gorge. The right-of-ways allow the conservancy to build a trail on private land while ensuring public access to the trail corridor forever, regardless of who owns the land.“Getting this massive project off the ground is complicated, but it’s doable,” Barr says. “It starts with a few landowners who see their land as something so meaningful, they want to share it with others.”While the 50-mile loop will take decades to complete, the first piece of singletrack is already on the ground, ascending Bearwallow Mountain. A 12-mile Upper Gorge loop that connects Bearwallow with nearby Forest Nature Preserve is currently in the works as well. The HNGT might be one of the most ambitious trail projects to be undertaken on private land in our region, but it’s certainly not the only instance of private conservations opening gates to hikers. As federal and state funding for public land continues to diminish, private land conservancies are shouldering the conservation and recreation responsibility more and more. And as many conservationists have learned over the years, the best way to garner public support and funds for a conservation project is to grant public access.“If I can get someone to the top of Bearwallow Mountain, they’ll see why land conservancy is important,” Barr says. “Giving the public access makes the land relevant.”Here are four private preserves in the Southern Appalachians that are ripe for some friendly trespassing.Lula LakeLookout Mountain, Ga.Just south of Chattanooga, the Lula Lake Land Trust preserves 4,400 acres of primo terrain on the edge of rocky Lookout Mountain. The core 500-acre property is packed with rocky outcroppings, a plunge pool with its own 30-foot cascade, a separate 85-foot waterfall, and six miles of doubletrack, all encased inside an impressive Cumberland Plateau escarpment. Lula Lake is only open on the first and last Saturdays of each month, but the property is worth the wait. Mountain bikers and trail runners should also check out Lula Lake’s other property on Lookout Mountain, which houses a piece of the Cloudland Canyon Connector Trail, a new 26-mile trail system open to fat tires that will eventually connect to Cloudland Canyon State Park, also on Lookout Mountain. lulalake.orgBearwallow MountainHickory Nut Gorge, N.C.Bearwallow is the CMLC’s flagship trail project in the Hickory Nut Gorge and serves as the public right-of-way model as the group moves forward with the ambitious 50-mile network. Hike the mile-long trail up Bearwallow, a 4,232-foot high bald that sits on the Eastern Continental Divide, and you’ll understand the potential of the project. Bearwallow is still a family-owned property where cattle graze seasonally. From the top, you can see the Smokies, the Blacks, and into South Carolina. There’s also a firetower that Barr is trying to restore, which will offer views into the belly of Hickory Nut Gorge, taking in Chimney Rock and Lake Lure.The Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy is so adamant about getting the public on their properties that they’ve created a hiking challenge, where hikers can earn gear and a patch just by treading through a series of trails on CMLC lands. carolinamountain.orgPendergrass Murray Recreational PreserveRed River Gorge, Ky.This 750-acre tract of land in the southern end of the Red River Gorge is packed with quality sandstone cliffs and climbing routes. The Red River Gorge Climbers Coalition purchased the land in 2004 and is poised to make the last payment on the property this summer. Since acquiring the land, the group has developed a system of hiking and biking trails as well as almost 500 climbing routes that range from 5.6 to 5.14. Sign a waiver and make a donation (not mandatory, but it’s good karma) and the cliffs are yours to scale. For easier sport and a few trad routes, head to The Crossroads crag. If you want to see the best sport climbers in the country tackle some of the hardest routes in the Red, go directly to the Bob Marley crag, an amphitheater with very tall, very steep rock. rrgcc.orgBottom Creek GorgeRoanoke River, Va.Owned by The Nature Conservancy, the Bottom Creek Gorge tract covers 1,650-acres of land at the headwaters of the Roanoke River. You’ll find virgin forests, wildflowers galore in the spring, and the second tallest waterfall in the state, the 200-foot Bent Mountain Falls. Roughly five miles of trail traverse the gorge. Seeing the falls is a must, but also take time to explore the remote virgin hemlock forest, as well as the half-acre shale barren which supports the rare chestnut lipfern, a plant that only lives in isolated patches in southwestern Virginia and eastern West Virginia. nature.org/virginia
The Flag Rock Area Trails offer eight miles of mountain bike trails that are also open to hikers, trail runners, cross country skiers, birders, and other “people-powered” activities. Trails travel through rhododendron-choked forested tunnels, past giant sandstone boulders and cliff lines, and through beautiful hardwood forests as they wind through Flag Rock Recreation Area. www.nortonva.gov for visiting outdoor recreation in Norton.Novice Level (Easiest) Gentle climbs and descents with obstacles such as rocks, gravel, roots, bridges, humps, holes and berms. Riders must have general bike handling skills before using these trails. Beginning at the Reservoir Trailhead, Lake Lake Show (0.95) and Twisted Forest (0.99) forms the eastern and western sides of the core loop of the trail system. These trails afford views of the Upper and Lower reservoirs, and large tangles of mountain laurel to a mature hardwood forest. Sugar Maple (0.64 miles) begins at the Shelter Trailhead and serves as primary access from the Flag Rock to the core loop of the system.Intermediate (Difficult) Challenging riding with steeper climbs, descents and obstacles. Trail may be narrow, with poor traction. Shorter sight-lines are common. Fern Gully (0.61 miles) trail is part of a connector between the Upper Norton Reservoir and Forest Road 2420 on adjacent National Forest property. Forest Road 2420 (2.7 miles) is a gated, grassy forest road connecting to Forest Road 238C, which climbs to the main ridge road on High Knob. A segment connects with other trails to create 4.2 miles. Moonshiner’s (0.75 miles) trail begins at the northern end of Reservoir Road and continues down to the junction with Lost Creek and Pickem Mountain. Oak (0.47 miles) trail consists of a 0.24-mile single-track segment from Twisted Forest to Reservoir Trail and shares the 0.23-mile southern end of Reservoir Trail connecting with Reservoir Road. Pickem Mountain (0.75 miles) trail lies mostly on National Forest property. If coming from Moonshiner’s, this trail climbs steadily for most of its length. Advanced (More Difficult) May be narrower, have long steep descents and climbs, loose trail surfaces, and numerous natural and man-made obstacles. Grind Central (0.26 miles) trail connects Fern Gully to Lake Lake Show on the east side of the Upper Reservoir. It is a steep descent from Fern Gully, or a serious “grind” from Lake Lake Show (steep, but not too technical).Expert (Most Difficult) Include extended steep descents, including rock drops and steep rock faces, very narrow trails, man-made ramps, and other extreme features. Only recommended for highly skilled riders. Lost Creek (0.90 miles): This one is one way…DOWN! Eat your Wheaties and bring your Big Boy Pants. Lost Creek is a very rocky, technical fall-line trail, which heads straight down the “holler.” It does not meander or let up. Numerous rock-drops and extended, steep, rock-garden riding. Empties onto city streets so beware.For these and other mountain biking opportunities region-wide, visit HEARTofAPPALACHIA.com.