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Energy News

Resiliency in the face of hurricanes makes the case for renewables even stronger

Quartz | Posted on September 20, 2018

People of the Carolinas are picking up the pieces after Hurricane Florence, the wettest tropical cyclone on record.  Solar-power installations were largely able to escape without harm.Before the storm hit, Duke Energy’s 40 solar-power sites were “de-energized” and set up horizontally to minimize wind damage. Although it’s too soon say what, if any, damage occurred, the signs are good. Soon after the storm passed, all the installations had begun producing power. Rooftop solar installations fared well too. Only six out of 800 customers of Yes Solar Solutions reported that there was a problem with their system.That said, modern renewables form only a fraction of the total electricity produced in the Carolinas. Duke Energy’s Brunswick nuclear plant was shut ahead of the storm and remains offline. The plant is safe but remains inaccessible because of flooding. Natural gas and coal power plants haven’t suffered any problems, but the flooding coal-ash fields are likely to cause environmental problems.

Omaha company idles Iowa ethanol plant, points to trade war, lack of year-round E15

Des Moines Register | Posted on September 20, 2018

Omaha-based Green Plains says it's idling production at a northwest Iowa ethanol plant, but the facility remains open and its nearly 50 employees continue to work. Jim Stark, Green Plains spokesman, said the company plans to resume production at Superior, but he's unsure exactly when that will occur. The facility employs 46 workers.

Trump administration weakens methane pollution standards for drilling on public lands

The Hill | Posted on September 20, 2018

The Trump administration on Tuesday finalized its plans to weaken regulations on methane gas releases from drilling on public land.The action from the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) rolls back key provisions of an Obama-era rule that limited releases of the greenhouse gas during oil and gas production on publicly owned lands leased to fossil fuel companies.The new rule is expected to allow for more leaks of the gas through a practice known as venting or flaring, adding to air pollution. The Obama administration estimated that the practice cost taxpayers more than $330 million annually in lost revenue. The new rule is being described by the Trump administration as a way to reduce burdens on the private sector.

Indiana NIPSCO plan would eliminate coal-fired electricity generation within 10 years

NorthWest Indiana Times | Posted on September 20, 2018

IPSCO has a tentative plan to retire its entire coal-fired electricity generation fleet in the next decade, with the majority of its coal-fired generators to be retired in the next five years.The company made the announcement at the fourth of five public meetings detailing the development of a new Integrated Resource Plan for the utility.“This creates a vision for the future that is better for our customers, and it’s consistent with our goal to transition to the best cost, cleanest electric supply mix available while maintaining reliability, diversity and flexibility for technology and market changes,” said NIPSCO President Violet Sistovaris.


Solar Going Big (And Small) In Illinois

Northern Public Radio | Posted on September 20, 2018

Solar power has been used here and there in Illinois for a long time. But now the state is going for it in a big way. With the Future Energy Jobs Act of 2016, Illinois charted a course to boost renewable energy, particularly solar, in a big way.It's all being managed by the Illinois Power Agency (IPA), led by Anthony Star. It was established to manage electricity markets, including renewables, and still does. But the new law gives it a mandate to create the framework for a new energy market in Illinois."So there's really two paths forward on renewable energy coming out of the Future Energy Jobs Act," Star said. "For large-scale renewable, such as wind farms or solar that's located on brownfields, we use the competitive procurement model, where we basically put out a request for proposals and people come with specific projects and bid on price."Renewable energy credits were developed by the renewables industry as a way to separate the environmental benefits from the electricity itself. They have value, and can be sold or traded separate from the electricity.

13 Solar farms coming to Northern Illinois county

My Stateline | Posted on September 20, 2018

As concerns over global climate change and limited resources rise, the race to provide renewable energy has come to Illinois. In the Stateline, companies pitch their plans to make local fields the source of that energy.  The Boone County Board is among many other local counties to be inundated with solar farm applications. County leaders tell us if green energy comes to the Stateline -- it could mean more money for local governments. Wednesday, a third solar farm was approved by the Boone County Board. The project is one of thirteen applications. Some board members say it's been surprising to see the amount of interest they're receiving."However they have to come get approval here [first]," said Boone County Board Denny Ellingson. "[That's] before they can get on the state list to even be in the lottery drawing to determine who will put up solar farms next summer."Ellingson says the applications are in land all over Boone County."One in the northern end of the county," said Ellingson. "The one that got approved a month ago is out near the fairgrounds."County Board Member Marshall Newhouse says with every vote, they learn something about the relatively unknown energy concept. Because of the uncertainty, he says the board is being very careful as they review each proposal.Newhouse says according to the developers, solar farms could mean a huge jump in property tax revenue."The taxes could be anywhere in the area of 7-10 times per acre what the county and the taxing bodies have been used to getting."Newhouse says the county wouldn't be the only one's reaping economic benefit from solar farms."To the farmer, it is a different and additional source of income," said Newhouse. "For those acres, that are going to be devoted to the project, it's probably going to be quite lucrative for them."County board members say they're listening to any resident concerns through the process as well. One controversial 200-acre proposal is up for a full county board vote on October 3rd.

Small Refinery Exemptions and Ethanol Demand Destruction

Farm Doc Daily | Posted on September 20, 2018

Small refinery exemptions (SREs) represent the latest controversy to engulf the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).  When the U.S. Congress first created the RFS in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (P.L. 109-58) it included a temporary exemption for small refineries from the mandate through 2011.  Under the Obama Administration, SREs were rarely granted after 2011.  This changed radically under the Trump Administration, which granted a total of 48 SREs retroactively for 2016 and 2017.  SREs effectively reduced the conventional ethanol mandate for 2017 from 15 billion gallons to 13.9 billion gallons.  This was not only a large reduction in absolute terms, but it also resulted in the conventional mandate being set below the E10 blend wall.  If similar numbers of SREs are granted for 2018 and 2019, comparable reductions in the effective conventional ethanol mandate should be expected (assuming the SRE volumes are not reallocated to non-exempt obligated parties)

Attorneys dispute merits on controversial Iowa pipeline project

The Gazette | Posted on September 19, 2018

Iowa landowners’ constitutional rights were violated when a Texas company used state-approved authority to seize their property to build an underground oil pipeline that had no public use because the interstate project did not service Iowans directly, a lawyer argued.  Bill Hanigan, a Des Moines lawyer representing landowners in six counties, asked the Iowa Supreme Court to reverse a district court decision by ruling the state abused its eminent domain “police power” in allowing invalid land takings. Because of that, he asked the seven justices to view the pipeline and oil passing through it as a continual trespass necessitating a remedy for the aggrieved landowners.However, attorneys for the state and Dakota Access said the project was properly granted a permit and use of eminent domain condemnation proceedings because it met the statutory provisions and regulatory authority delegated to the Iowa Utilities Board to build the 1,172-mile pipeline through 18 Iowa counties.

Gas pipeline gets rare rebuke from North Carolina local government

Energy News Network | Posted on September 19, 2018

When Alamance County passed a resolution last week against a proposal to expand the Mountain Valley Pipeline into north central North Carolina, it became the first county in the state to formally voice opposition to an interstate gas pipeline. “We’re plowing new ground,” said Commissioner Bob Byrd after the unanimous vote. “I’m generally considered the more progressive person on this board, but I was pleased that we all came together on this particular one.”  The declaration by the board of four Republicans and one Democrat was submitted to federal regulators before September 10th, the first public comment deadline for a pipeline that’s still in the early stages of development.

Government group buying helping to spread solar across Minnesota

Energy News Network | Posted on September 19, 2018

The state of Minnesota and nearly a dozen other government entities will use a collaborative buying approach to build 4 megawatts of on-site solar. Called “Solar Possible,” the initiative used a master contract and a joint request for proposals to select vendors and gather pricing data. The Minnesota Department of Administration’s Office of Enterprise Sustainability and two partner organizations developed the program.Participating school districts, government agencies and city governments are getting better prices than they would have on their own, said Office of Enterprise Sustainability director Larry Herke.