U.S. EPA’s allies in state governments, the environmental community and industry are urging federal judges to reject the onslaught of legal challenges against the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan. Tuesday marks a deadline set by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit for some of EPA’s backers to file their briefs as judges weigh the fate of the contentious regulation to curb power plants’ greenhouse gas emissions.
Right now, there’s an odd thing about solar in the United States (and elsewhere). It’s either really big — at the scale of massive solar farms with the capacity to generate tens or hundreds of millions of watts of electricity — or pretty small: on your rooftop, with maybe as little as 5 kilowatts, or thousand watts, of capacity. Solar has been growing extremely fast in these existing markets. But more and more, analysts say, there’s a middle-range market whose large potential is just becoming clear. It’s bigger than individual rooftop installations but smaller than vast solar farms. And it’s for a much broader and diverse range of people than fairly wealthy, suburban homeowners.
By the time summer rolls around, five wind turbines, each rising 600 feet, could be spinning in the Atlantic Ocean near Rhode Island. Two more could spring up off the coast of Virginia by late next year. America’s first offshore wind farms will arrive after more than a decade of fits and starts, and they could deliver a jolt of much-needed momentum to the struggling industry. Yet building the next, bigger offshore wind projects will require states stepping in to help defray the sky-high electricity costs and attract wary investors, analysts say. A handful of other East Coast wind farms are in the works, but none are likely to come online this decade without stronger clean energy policies, or better financial incentives.
Colorado’s top air official has condemned an effort by Republican lawmakers to block about $8.5 million in funding over concerns about federal climate change regulations. If passed, the move “would significantly interfere with our ability to do our job of ensuring clean air and reducing emissions,” said Will Allison, Air Pollution Control Division director with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
A group of 17 former state energy and environmental leaders is asking to support U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan in federal court. The coalition includes former officials from states ranging from Vermont to Texas who intend to counter “exaggerated claims” made by critics of the regulation, according to court documents.
Solar energy and energy efficiency firms are predicting strong hiring growth over the next year, according to a new federal report assessing national employment in multiple energy sectors. The first-ever analysis from the Department of Energy reports a swirl of numbers on how U.S. energy trends are affecting national employment. It finds, for example, that energy employers are having a difficult time finding qualified workers, and that minorities and women remain underrepresented in energy jobs when it comes to their overall numbers.
The federal government approved the construction of a research facility off Virginia’s coast to test wind turbines in harsh open-sea environments. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management approved a research lease with the state last year, and now it has authorized the construction of two 6-megawatt turbines about 30 miles off Virginia Beach.
A U.N.-backed report says global investments in solar, wind and other sources of renewable energy reached a record $286 billion last year. For the first time the developing world accounted for the majority. The United Nations Environment Program on Thursday said renewable investments in developing countries jumped 19 percent to $156 billion in 2015, with $103 billion in China alone.
The US wind energy industry is currently paying $222 million annually to rural landowners whose land supports wind farms, in turn supporting some of the most economically distressed communities in the US. Landowners in six states are currently receiving over $10 million dollars a year in lease payments, with Texas ranked number one, followed by Iowa, California, Oklahoma, Illinois, and Kansas. Landowners in 26 additional different states are receiving over $1 million. In the end, the share of wind development in rural areas represents more than $101 billion in wind farm investment.
Up and down the center of the country, winds rip across plains, ridges and plateaus, a belt of unharnessed energy capable of powering millions of customers, with enormous potential to help meet national goals to stem climate change. And because the bulk of the demand is hundreds of miles away, companies are working to build a robust network of high-voltage transmission lines to get the power to the coasts. If only it were that simple. In all, more than 3,100 miles of projects have yet to be built, in need of government approval.