Heading south on U.S. Route 95 from Las Vegas, drivers gradually become aware of a vast, shimmering presence far off in the distance. Continue on a few miles farther down into the valley, and the source of the shiny apparition becomes apparent. Tucked between the highway and the peaks of the McCullough Range is the Copper Mountain Solar complex, a sprawling collection of panels stretching across 3,000 acres of this high-desert valley. By catching the sun’s rays — and it’s almost always sunny here — the facility generates enough electricity to power 142,000 homes in nearby Southern California.
Wildfires are increasing and wildfire season is getting longer in the Western United States. As the global climate warms, dry areas are becoming drier due to higher spring and summer temperatures and earlier snowmelts facilitating drought. These conditions have increased the intensity and long-burning wildfires currently occurring throughout Washington state. This disaster should serve as a wake-up call to everyone who refutes the existence of climate change.
California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) and state lawmakers are giving up their plans to reduce petroleum use by 50 percent by 2030. The mandate was included in S.B. 350, a bill being shepherded through the Legislature by Brown and Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León (D) in the waning days of the state’s legislative session. The goal was perhaps the most ambitious of the three that Brown announced upon taking office in January for his fourth term. The other two — to increase the state’s share of renewable energy to 50 percent and to double the efficiency of existing buildings by 2030 — still remain in the bill, which must pass the Legislature by today.
The USA’s Top 10 solar states are not those blessed with the most sunlight according to a new report, but those that have adopted strong support policies to encourage home owners to go solar. That’s the key conclusion of “Lighting the Way III: The Top States that Helped Drive America’s Solar Energy Boom in 2014”, from research group Environment Massachusetts, in conjunction with the U.S. Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).
The U.S. solar industry is on course for a new growth record in 2015, according to a new report that finds that solar photovoltaic installations now exceed 20 gigawatts in capacity and could surpass an unprecedented 7 gigawatts this year alone across all segments. A gigawatt is equivalent to 1 billion watts and can power some 164,000 homes, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).
If you want to see how U.S. utilities could lose control of the electricity industry, keep an eye on Brooklyn’s Red Hook neighborhood, which spent a week in the dark after Hurricane Sandy hit New York in 2012. Red Hook is planning to use a mix of solar panels, battery storage and small wind turbines to create a “microgrid” that can power local apartment buildings, businesses and a community center, as well as ensure the neighborhood can successfully endure another big storm.
In a major setback for environmental advocates in California, Gov. Jerry Brown and Senate Democrats abandoned a 50 percent cut in petroleum use by 2030 that was a centerpiece of emissions legislation, blaming an intense campaign against the mandate by the oil industry. The measure, the latest and most ambitious part of a series of legislation and regulations by the state to significantly curb greenhouse gas emissions over the next 35 years, passed the Democratic-controlled Senate but faced almost certain defeat in the Assembly, where Democrats are also in control but tend to be more moderate and represent economically struggling parts of the state. Opponents had warned that the 50 percent mandate would result in higher fuel and electricity costs; the oil industry, in its advertisements, asserted that it could lead to fuel rationing and bans on sport utility vehicles.
Montana Gov. Steve Bullock praised the state’s potential for wind energy development at a conference in Bozeman on Wednesday, saying he hopes the industry can keep growing and help the state meet standards set by the federal Clean Power Plan, to which he gave a lukewarm welcome last month. “These are really incredible opportunities for our state,” Bullock said. “As long as we view them as opportunities, not just obstacles to hold us back.”
A federal appeals court yesterday denied an initial effort by more than a dozen states and industry to block the Obama administration’s landmark greenhouse gas standards for power plants. West Virginia and 15 other states last month sought an emergency stay to halt the Clean Power Plan while litigation challenging the regulations plays out. But in a short order, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said the challengers “have not satisfied the stringent standards that apply” for “extraordinary writs that seek to stay agency action.”
“America has been lulled into complacency during downturns in energy prices before, believing cheap energy would last forever, only to be hit harder each successive time when energy prices inevitably increased,” the report states. “Smart energy policy can help us avoid falling into this trap as we have before by ensuring that America maintains a diverse portfolio of energy options.”