A federal court bid last week by 15 states to block U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan offered few new arguments but illuminated a key legal strategy: retaining the same three Republican-appointed judges who considered an earlier, premature challenge to the regulation. Led by West Virginia, the states asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to take the unusual step of granting an emergency stay of the greenhouse gas standards for power plants. That would put the rules on hold pending the resolution of litigation.
The improvement was no accident. As wind became valued as an important contributor to the Texas generation portfolio, it became apparent that to fully benefit from wind they would need to build transmission lines from where the best generation sites were to the population centers where it would be used. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) set about defining Competitive Renewable Energy Zones (CREZ) and creating an electric transmission plan to assure that the electricity could get from the CREZs to point of use. The transmission lines have now been built and have nearly zeroed out the need to curtail wind generation.
In a move that mirrors President Obama’s recent executive action on climate change, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) is pushing forward a cap on carbon emissions under the state’s Clean Air Act after failing to convince the Legislature to approve a market-based program last year. The new proposal would not require legislative action, according to David Postman, a spokesman for the governor.
President Barack Obama’s enemies have long accused him of waging a “war on coal.” But a very different war on oil and gas is coming next. The newest phase of Obama’s environmental agenda has the oil and natural gas industry in its crosshairs, with plans to curb greenhouse gas pollution from rigs and refineries, tighten oversight of drilling on public lands and impose a strict ozone limit that industry lobbyists slam as “the most expensive regulation ever.”
By almost any measure, the U.S. solar market is on fire. Installations of solar panels are expected to soar by a third this year, the price of solar power is now cheap enough to compete neck and neck with gas and coal-fired power in places like California, and the fledgling industry received a vote of confidence last week when U.S. President Barack Obama announced a groundbreaking plan to curb power plant emissions. Even China’s currency devaluation could cut panel costs for U.S. solar installers. Wall Street, however, has been dumping solar shares this year, largely on concern, which investors say is misplaced, that tumbling oil prices will sap demand for alternative energy, even though oil isn’t used to generate power.
The Navy will set the record next week for the largest renewable energy purchase by a federal entity. The service is entering into a solar power purchase agreement with the Western Area Power Administration and Sempra U.S. Gas & Power LLC to buy 210 megawatts of solar power from an array in Arizona. The agreement is expected to supply one-third of the power used by the 14 Navy and Marine Corps installations in California.
t’s important to understand what small or distributed wind is — “behind-the-meter” generation generally found on farms, industrial sites and rural homesteads. It generates on-site power first, and then it can feed extra electricity to the grid. What small wind is not: towering turbine farms dotting ridgelines and feeding megawatts of electricity to wholesale markets. Smaller turbines are lower to the ground, generating little noise and posing less of a threat to wildlife than their tall cousins. It is also not what Bergey calls “eggbeater” turbines stuck on the roofs of office buildings.
In May 2013, MidAmerican Energy Company announced the Highland Wind Energy project, a $1.9 billion development that will add 448 wind turbines producing 1,050 megawatts of electricity at five sites in Iowa. The largest of those sites is in O’Brien County, where 211 turbines producing 495 megawatts are being erected. MidAmerican later announced it was expanding the Highland project, and a total of 214 turbines will be built.
U.S. EPA chief Gina McCarthy doesn’t want to duke it out with Harvard Law professor Laurence Tribe about her agency’s new climate rule, but she does think he’s wrong. Asked how she’d respond to Tribe’s criticism that EPA’s climate rule represents a “breathtaking example” of regulatory “overreach,” McCarthy told PBS talk show host Charlie Rose earlier this week, “I’m not a lawyer. And certainly even if I were, I wouldn’t argue with the man.” However, she said, “We have operated under cooperative federalism for the entire time of EPA. This is a total partnership between states and EPA. We’re setting a standard, which is what everybody in the world has been telling EPA to do.”
France has launched a tender for several floating offshore wind turbine projects in what is set to be the first attempt to test this new technology on an industrial scale. French environment agency ADEME on Wednesday posted a tender document inviting companies to submit proposals to build floating wind farms with between three to six turbines each, with a capacity of at least 5 megawatts per turbine in three sites in the Mediterranean and one site off southern Brittany. Portugal and Norway have pioneered the new technology in the past few years with a single floating turbine each, and Portugal plans to build a 25 MW floating wind demonstration farm, but the French project will be the first to test floating offshore wind on a large scale.