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Indiana's largest solar project moving forward on 800 acres

Perry County News | Posted on October 23, 2017

While not set in stone, the odds of Spencer County becoming home to the state’s largest solar project are about as good as they can be following a productive meeting between the county council and representatives from Orion Renewable Energy Group. The project, operating under the name Troy Solar LLC, would see a massive investment in solar panels on 800 acres of leased farmland between the communities of Troy and New Boston along Indiana 545. At a Sept. 19 meeting, the council agreed to move forward on designating the selected farmland, which local property owners are leasing to Orion Renewables for the project, as an Economic Revitalization Area. A public hearing on this matter, as well as proposed abatements to expedite construction, was conducted Monday evening with Justin Wolf of Orion Renewables and legal representative for the project Eric Schue making their case for Troy Solar.The proposal has changed, somewhat since the last meeting. Wolf explained that the solar market has been shaken somewhat by the expectation that new tariffs will be levied on imported solar panels, owing to a trade case brought by a number of American manufacturers. Though not yet settled one way or another, companies are factoring in those tariffs in their decisions, buying up panels and reducing available stock.
While there is some fear in the industry that many projects will be put on hold due to this federal action, Wolf explained that the proposed project north of Troy should not be among them. Instead, the expected completion date for Phase 1 has merely been pushed back to 2021. Anticipated equipment shortages have also pushed the upper range of the project’s first phase up about $10 million, with the costs projected anywhere from $50 to $80 million. This is a sizable shift to be sure, but one Wolf believed would not overcome the market forces behind the push for new solar power.

The US government underestimated solar energy installation in the US by 4,813%

Quartz | Posted on October 20, 2017

Every two years, the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), America’s official source for energy statistics, issues scenarios about how much solar, wind and conventional energy the future holds for the US. Every two years, since the mid-1990s, the EIA is wrong. Last year, it was spectacularly wrong. The Natural Resources Defense Council and Statista recently teamed up to analyze the EIA’s predictions for energy usage and production. It found that the EIA’s ten-year estimates between 2006 to 2016 systematically understated the share of wind, solar and gas. Solar capacity, in particular, was a whopping 4,813% more in 2016 than the EIA had predicted it would be.

Amazon's Jeff Bezos just opened a massive wind farm in Texas

CNBC | Posted on October 20, 2017

Amazon Wind Farm Texas would add over 1 million megawatt hours (MWh) of clean energy to the grid annually. The facility, which is located in Scurry County, has over 100 turbines, each standing more than 300-feet tall and with a rotor diameter over double the wingspan of a Boeing 787.Amazon said the wind farm was built, owned and operated by Lincoln Clean Energy, which develops wind and solar projects in the U.S. Amazon has entered into a long-term agreement to purchase 90 percent of the facility's output.

Gulf Coast Oil Spill May Be Largest Since 2010 BP Disaster

Bloomberg | Posted on October 19, 2017

An oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico last week may be the largest in the U.S. since the 2010 blowout at BP Plc’s Macondo well that sank the Deepwater Horizon rig and killed 11 people.  LLOG Exploration Co. reported 7,950 to 9,350 barrels of oil were released Oct. 11 to Oct. 12 from subsea infrastructure about 40 miles (64 kilometers) southeast of Venice, Louisiana

Salvation through Fermentation

Wisconsin Academy | Posted on October 19, 2017

Producing economically viable biofuels from biomass other than corn, however, is more complicated. Many biofuels researchers, including those at the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC) based at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, are now focused on making biofuels from low-input crops such as switchgrass and poplar. These dedicated bioenergy crops, no portion of which are used for food, avoid the conflicts that arise from growing food crops to produce fuel.  Although not yet a market force, cellulosic biofuels, or fuels made from grasses and wood, are routinely factored into future climate mitigation scenarios because of their potential to displace petroleum use and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. Dedicated bioenergy crops can also be grown on non-agricultural land, require less fertilizer than annual crops such as corn, and boost biodiversity. Ultimately, GLBRC researchers hope to find ways of growing sustainable biomass and converting it to biofuels and bio-products that provide cost-competitive alternatives to petroleum-derived fuels and chemicals.Getting there, however, will depend on a number of scientific advancements, including finding new ways to harness the power and potential of yeast. 

Study to explore Illinois' energy future

Dispatch Argus | Posted on October 19, 2017

The Illinois Commerce Commission has launched an 18-month study to explore the use of emerging technologies to improve the state's electric grid. The "NextGrid: Illinois' Utility of the Future" study is the collaborative effort of the ICC, Ameren Illinois, ComEd, and the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at the University of Illinois, the Herald-Whig reported.It's a "consumer-focused collaborative study to transform Illinois' energy landscape and economy," said ICC Chairman Brien J. Sheahan. The study was prompted by innovations in technology and energy efficiency, and the push for renewable energy sources such as wind and solar.

Wind power to overtake coal power in Texas

Washington Examiner | Posted on October 19, 2017

Wind energy is expected to overtake coal in Texas after Friday's news that two large coal-fired power plants are set to close in the next year. The utility firm Luminant announced that it would close the Sandow Power Plant and the Big Brown Power Plant in early 2018. The power plants comprise 2,300 megawatts of electricity, which means 2.1 million homes in the Lone Star State will no longer be powered by coal.That gap in electricity generation is projected to be filled by wind farms in the Texas energy grid known as ERCOT, according to an analysis issued by the University of Texas at Austin's Energy Institute soon after Luminant's announcement.

Trump orders EPA to back off RFS changes

Bloomberg | Posted on October 19, 2017

President Donald Trump intervened personally with the Environmental Protection Agency amid pressure from Republicans in the politically important state of Iowa who worried the agency was poised to weaken biofuel quotas, three people familiar with the discussions said. Trump directed EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to back off any changes that would dilute a federal mandate for biofuel use, the people said.  A top EPA official said Trump’s urging was unnecessary because Pruitt wasn’t planning on weakening the mandate.Nevertheless, the agency was told by the White House to drop two changes that were under consideration: a possible reduction in biodiesel requirements and a proposal to allow exported renewable fuel to count toward domestic quotas, said the people, who asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the move. The EPA has a Nov. 30 deadline to finalize next year’s quotas, and it may not announce any changes before then.

Trump’s plan to back oil companies would hurt rural jobs and the people who voted for him

Newsweek | Posted on October 19, 2017

President Donald Trump's proposed cuts in biofuels will hurt American farmers and create a "cannibalistic" battle between middle American farmers and Big Oil, say four Republican governors in states that backed Trump in the 2016 election. The proposal by Trump's Environmental Protection Agency would allow fuel producers to use less corn, soybean and other agricultural biomass in gasoline and other fuels. The rule change is pushed by large oil companies, which oppose a decade-old rule mandating a set amount of biofuels be included in gasoline and diesel, reported Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc.The four Midwestern Republicans hit back on Monday, telling Trump that reducing the renewable fuel standard is  "backwards" and will create a "cannibalistic, zero-sum scenario" that hurts the farmers who helped elect Trump. Governors Sam Brownback of Kansas, Kim Reynolds of Iowa, Eric Greitens of Missouri and Dennis Daugaard of South Dakota said the EPA proposal has already driven down crop prices in their states and cost farmers "precious earnings" and "critically needed" revenue."Cutting the biomass…volume…is not only unnecessary, it’s highly disruptive, unprecedented and potentially catastrophic," the statement said.Worse, any reduction in America's commitment to renewable fuels could spark a trade war with Canada and other partners, they added, pointedly noting that not "even under the Obama Administration" were such drastic cuts taken.

As energy transactions become more complex, Chicago firm seeks to simplify

Midwest Energy News | Posted on October 18, 2017

A Chicago-area startup is garnering the attention of major industry players with a cloud-based platform for settling energy trades in the decentralized, digital 21st century. Aquilon Energy Services, based in Lisle, Illinois, has developed an Energy Settlement Network that leverages the power of web-based communication technology and big-data analytics to make it easier for energy companies and other firms to trade commodities like power, oil and natural gas.The need for this kind of service is growing. With the rise of renewable power and smart-grid technologies, the power grid itself is resembling more and more a vast, complex network of smaller and more distributed energy producers and consumers. As the number of stakeholders increases – and as the various flows of physical energy become more dynamic – there is demand for robust mechanisms that track, analyze and confirm the exchange of energy.