Tim Johnson, pastor of Cherokee Park United Church in St. Paul, says visitors frequently inquire about the church’s solar array. (Photo by Ken Paulman / Midwest Energy News)
Bethel Evangelical Lutheran and Minnesota Community Solar came together earlier this year to promote a solar garden that will sit atop the roof of the Minneapolis church.
Without a panel yet installed, the 40-kilowatt (kW) solar garden attracted enough support from the church’s members and surrounding Bancroft neighborhood to be fully subscribed. The project encapsulated for Rev. Brenda L. Froisland a deeper spiritual tug that speaks to her faith and the teachings of Christianity.
“Part of our vision is that in gratitude, Bethel amplifies God’s grace, nourishes God’s creation, reaches out and builds community,” she said. “This is very much a manifestation of those points and our vision. “We’re noting this incredible resource called solar energy God gives us, and we’re nourishing God’s creation by reducing our carbon footprint and consuming less coal — all that’s connected to global warming, sustainability and simplicity.”
(Photo by SaskPower via Creative Commons)
In an ideal world, smart meters paired with sophisticated sensors and software programs in homes across the country would allow people to constantly shift their habits and alter their energy use to save money and reduce carbon emissions.
But even as utilities are increasingly installing smart meters and providing customers with data about usage, advocates say they are not generally offering the data quickly enough — or in as much detail as needed — for maximum energy conservation.
At the core of this issue is the question of who “owns” a household’s energy use data – the utility or the customer themselves. Also, whether and how the data can be automatically passed on to a third party – namely a company that will use the data help customers save energy.
(Photo by CeeDave via Creative Commons)
Cross-posted from Greentech Media with permission
By Martin LaMonica
Utility industry pros often say Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla would recognize today’s electric grid because the basic architecture has changed so little over the past 100 years. The same could be said for electricity pricing.
And that’s a problem if distributed energy is to be deeply integrated in today’s power grid, according to a report from the Electricity Innovation Lab.
The paper, released on Tuesday, seeks to offer a way forward for electricity pricing, an arcane issue for most consumers but vitally important to how several emerging distributed technologies are valued. That includes solar, storage, demand response, efficiency, microgrids and home automation.
Construction crews building the Flanagan South pipeline in September, 2013. (Photo by Charles Dunlap, The Concordian. Used with permission)
As recently as two or three years ago, major cross-country pipelines typically did not begin construction until a federal environmental impact statement had been completed and found them acceptable.
But as demonstrated last week, the times have changed.
On Aug. 18, a federal district court judge ruled that the nearly-completed 589-mile Flanagan South pipeline may proceed without undergoing a comprehensive evaluation of its likely environmental impacts.
Later this year, the pipeline, developed by Enbridge Inc., is to start carrying diluted bitumen extracted from tar sands in western Canada. The thick oil typically is combined with condensed natural gas and moved under high pressure and high temperature through pipelines. Dilbit pipeline spills in recent years have caused widespread damage in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and Mayflower, Arkansas.
Major pipeline projects, which in many cases will transport hazardous materials, are developed with a minimum of government scrutiny, according to the two lawyers who filed the case against Flanagan South. Government agencies are giving pipeline companies a lot of freedom to do as they wish, the lawyers contend. And industry is taking full advantage of the opportunities presented to it.
There’s been “a trend in the industry to try to avoid review,” said Jim Murphy, an attorney representing the National Wildlife Federation in the case filed against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and several other federal agencies. Pipeline developers have done so “by avoiding major permits to the extent they can, by avoiding border crossings to the extent they can, and by using existing rights-of-way.”
Cattle graze at Cedar Summit Farm near New Prague, Minnesota, in this June 4 picture. The CapX2020 transmission line can be seen in the background. (Photo by Cedar Summit Farm via Creative Commons)
While science has all but ruled out the most persistent health claims about transmission projects, high-voltage lines are still perceived by many as posing a risk to humans and livestock.
And in a recent Minnesota case testing the state’s Buy the Farm law, that perception — rather than the science — was the deciding factor.
A Scott County judge ruled last week that utilities in the CapX2020 project have to buy the Cedar Summit Farm based on “subjective concerns” about the power line’s impact. Cedar Summit is a grass-fed, organic dairy operation — the only 100 percent grass-fed creamery in the state — and its products are sought-after for their high quality.
Minnesota’s unique statute requires utilities to buy entire properties if they’ll be negatively impacted by a transmission project. Cedar Summit’s owners, David and Florence Minar, had argued that the CapX2020 project would have a potential adverse effect on milk production as well as damage the farm’s pastoral, rural image.
But for District Judge Caroline Lennon, the latter argument was what mattered.
(Photo by Toyota UK via Creative Commons)
Electric cars may still be somewhat of a novelty in the U.S., but employers across the country are beginning to install charging infrastructure at the office as a perk for workers with electricity-fueled transportation.
The charging stations are also seen by electric vehicle advocates as a way to encourage other drivers to make the switch from gasoline.
Drive Electric Ohio is an initiative helmed by nonprofit Clean Fuels Ohio to keep the state at the forefront of this technology as more electric cars roll off assembly lines at lower price points.
These billboards are at the center of an Ohio lawsuit against a local man who opposes fracking and related activities.
A lawsuit filed by an Ohio company last month seeks to remove two anti-fracking billboards near a wastewater site it operates.
While the case is a test of free speech, critics say it also reflects a broader reluctance for businesses and regulatory agencies in the state to adequately inform citizens about shale gas activities and address their concerns.
Fracking is the use of chemically treated water and sand to crack and prop open rock so oil and gas can flow out. Fracking a horizontal shale well can take millions of gallons of water. In Ohio, most of the wastewater that can’t be reused goes into underground injection wells.
Ohio’s regulatory environment is allowing rapid expansion of the shale gas industry. The state’s natural gas production nearly doubled from 2012 to 2013. And shale wastewater injection for 2013 was up more than 2 million barrels from the previous year.
Critics say the system fast-tracks permits for activities related to shale gas at the expense of public comment and citizen input.
A single solar panel prior to installation at the Lester Public Library in Two Rivers, Wisconsin. (Photo by Lester Public Library via Creative Commons)
A closely watched battle over utility policy in Wisconsin could determine the fate of solar development throughout the region, advocates say.
The dispute is over three major rate cases recently filed by We Energies, Madison Gas & Electric and Wisconsin Public Service Corporation. The three utilities cover much of the eastern half of the state as well as its largest cities.
If the state Public Service Commission (PSC) approves the cases, solar experts say there will be a massive chill over solar development in these utilities’ service territories. And they expect other utilities in Wisconsin and beyond will file similar requests.
Kansas City is the largest municipality in Missouri’s PACE district, the smallest is a town of 430. (Photo by Jim Nix via Creative Commons)
Four years after Missouri passed a law allowing Property-Assessed Clean Energy (PACE), the state is on the verge of launching the first few projects.
“It’s been a long birthing process,” said Nathan Nickolaus, who is on the board of directors of the Missouri Clean Energy District, which administers the program.
As in many of the 31 states that have passed PACE laws allowing municipalities to create a PACE lending program for clean-energy projects, cities in Missouri concluded that they weren’t up to the task of creating a PACE program. Only 25 of those states actually have lending programs in place.
One regional government entity in Missouri considered developing a PACE program, then abandoned the idea because it would have to hire a dedicated staff member to get it done. The city of Springfield also looked into it, but local officials “didn’t feel they had the staff,” according to David Pickerill, executive director of the Missouri Clean Energy District. “It turned out it had to be statewide.”
(Photo by ed_needs_a_bicycle via Creative Commons)
As Chicago clamors to be known as the country’s most sustainable city – promoting solar installations, electric vehicles and energy efficiency – the City Council has been considering an ordinance that would mandate most gas stations offer gasoline blended with 15 percent ethanol, or E15.
The ordinance was framed as a step to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote cleaner energy, and was seen as potentially sparking other such municipal mandates nationwide. It is sponsored by Alderman Edward Burke, who has pushed clean-air measures including the original ordinance to close the city’s coal-fired power plants and a smoking ban.
The E15 ordinance has strong backing from farmers, part of an Illinois ethanol industry reported as creating 73,156 jobs and $17.5 billion in economic activity annually. It is backed by the American Lung Association. And it also is meant to provide relief from city gas prices identified in June as the highest in the nation — E15 blends are typically cheaper 5 to 15 cents per gallon cheaper than conventional 87 or 89 octane gasoline.