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Illinois Supreme Court ruling leaves wind-power line up in the air

Chicago Business | Posted on September 28, 2017

The Illinois Supreme Court has dealt a punishing blow to the proposed clean-power "super highway" designed to transmit output from Iowa and Dakotas wind farms to the Chicago market. The state's high court today upheld an Illinois Appellate Court ruling​ that concluded state regulators improperly approved the Rock Island Clean Line project. 

EPA seeking input on ‘potential reductions’ in RFS volumes

Agri-Pulse | Posted on September 27, 2017

A notice from the Environmental Protection Agency has the biofuels community up in arms as they face the prospect of a potential hit to renewable fuel blending levels.  the EPA released a Notice of Data Availability (NODA) giving public notice and inviting comment on “potential options for reductions in the 2018 biomass-based diesel, advanced biofuel, and total renewable fuel volumes, and/or the 2019 biomass-based diesel volume under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program.” A 15-day comment period will be triggered when the NODA is published in the Federal Register.  In July, the EPA announced Renewable Volume Obligations for 2018 as well as biomass-based diesel for 2019 at levels that didn’t exactly thrill biofuels supporters. The biodiesel RVO was proposed at 2.1 billion gallons, the same level proposed for 2018. That negated some of the happiness about the Trump administration leaving room for 15 billion gallons of conventional biofuel, the amount called for in the legislation that created the RFS.In the NODA, the agency discusses reductions of biomass-based diesel by 315 million gallons, lowering the advanced biofuel and total renewable fuel RVO by the equivalent of 473 million ethanol Renewable Identification Numbers, or RINs. The NODA cites concerns over biodiesel imports which it says “could affect our analysis” of factors used to set the Renewable Volume Obligations in the first place.

Florida residents prohibited from using solar energy after Hurricane Irma

Inhabitat | Posted on September 21, 2017

Millions of Florida residents lost power after Hurricane Irma raged through the state. But homeowners with solar energy installations couldn’t use them during the outage – or they’d be breaking the law. State code requires people to connect their homes to the local electric grid – and when parts of it were damaged after the hurricane, even those homeowners with solar power were legally obliged to sit in the dark.

Clean electricity revolution poised to steamroll fossil fuels as cost of renewables plunges

Independent | Posted on September 21, 2017

The cost of renewables is plunging faster than forecasters anticipated just a few years ago as as technologies like gigantic wind turbines arrive on the market. That’s the conclusion of Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), whose founder Michael Liebreich estimated that clean energy will reap 86 percent of the $10.2 trillion likely to be invested in power generation by 2040.In a presentation to the research group’s conference in London on Tuesday, Liebreich said technology that’s slashing the costs of wind and solar farms makes it inevitable that clean energy will become more economical than fossil fuels for utilities in many places. The most visible advance is in the scale of wind turbines.

New York governor signs law requiring B5 for bioheating in downstate counties

Biofuels Digest | Posted on September 21, 2017

In New York state, New Yorkers in downstate counties will soon benefit from cleaner air due to the increased use of Bioheat fuel in heating oil. Legislation signed Sept. 13 by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo requires Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester counties to follow New York City’s lead by blending at least 5 percent biodiesel (B5) into all home heating oil sold by July 1, 2018. New York City, the largest municipal consumer of heating oil in the country, has already taken advantage of biodiesel’s benefits by instituting a citywide 2 percent biodiesel requirement in 2012 that increases to 5 percent on Oct. 1, 2017. Now the entire New York City Metropolitan Area, representing approximately 70 percent of the state’s heating oil market, will have a 5 percent biodiesel blending requirement.

Could Papayas Help Hawaii Become Energy Independent?

Sierra Club | Posted on September 21, 2017

Papayas are big business in Hawaii. In 2016, the islands produced nearly 20 million pounds of the tropical melon, valued at an estimated $10 million. The Hawaiian papaya is also highly controversial. After the papaya ringspot virus decimated the island’s crop three decades ago, much of the fruit grown there today has been genetically modified to be resistant.  For Hawaiian farmers, selling the papayas can be difficult. Countries are often reticent to import genetically modified crops. Farmers also face an uphill battle because of the high cost of imported fertilizers. But even more problematic is waste. Approximately a third of the Hawaiian papaya crop is discarded because it’s bruised or misshapen. Farmers throw out these otherwise saleable crops when margins are already thin. Lisa Keith, a plant pathologist with the USDA in Hilo, Hawaii, may have a solution. Keith and her team of researchers have been gathering leftover papayas from local packing houses and turning them into a fuel that’s used to produce biodiesel. It’s a surprisingly simple process that includes adding algae to large tanks that contain a sterile pureed papaya solution, where a process called heterotrophic growth takes place—in the absence of sunlight, algae feed on the sugar in the papaya. When the algae becomes starved of nitrogen after depleting the nutrients in the puree, it stimulates lipid production, which causes the lipid cells to balloon up with oil in just under two weeks’ time. These oils can be used for biodiesel production after the glycerol present in the cells is extracted.

Kansas: Coal fired power plant unlikely to be built

Lawrence Journal World | Posted on September 20, 2017

A controversial plan to build an 895-megawatt coal fired power plant in southwest Kansas now appears to be dead, company officials behind the project have said.  In an August filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Denver-based Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association described as "remote" the chances that it will ever build the plant, and it said the company is writing off as a loss more than $93 million it has already spent on the project."Although a final decision has not been made by our Board on whether to proceed with the construction of the Holcomb Expansion, we have assessed the probability of us entering into construction for the Holcomb Expansion as remote," the company said. "Based on this assessment, we have determined that the costs incurred for the Holcomb Expansion are impaired and not recoverable."That statement came just five months after the Kansas Supreme Court cleared the way to proceed with construction, rejecting a challenge from environmental groups to an air permit issued by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.The plant had been in the works for more than a decade, however, and by the time that court decision came down, there were new federal regulations in place making it more difficult to build new coal-fired power plants, and the economics of renewable energy had changed significantly.

Ohio legislator pushes bill to build more wind turbines closer to properties

Columbus Dispatch | Posted on September 19, 2017

Against the backdrop of wind-farm construction in Hardin County, state Sen. Cliff Hite, R-Findlay, sought to build support for his proposal that would allow more wind turbines to be built in upcoming projects. “I think we can make this happen,” he said during the event Thursday. “The groundswell of support is increasing as we speak.”Senate Bill 188 would partially undo changes that lawmakers made in 2013 addressing where turbines can be built. The bill deals will the minimum distance required between a turbine and property lines and houses.Hite spoke at a news conference at Hog Creek Wind Farm, a project being built near Dunkirk, in northwestern Ohio. The developer, EDP Renewables, already operates three wind farms in the state.Before 2013, turbines could be built within about 550 feet of a property line, a figure based on the height of the tower and blade. Then, four years ago, lawmakers made an amendment to an unrelated measure that increased the distance to about 1,300 feet. Ever since, wind-industry groups and others have pushed for a reversal of the change.Hite, whose district includes several wind farms, tried to make the changes earlier this year through an amendment to the state budget. The provision was removed at the last minute, and critics said the topic should be debated on its own.

Illinois utilities begin to design community solar programs under new energy law

Midwest Energy News | Posted on September 14, 2017

Illinois utilities and regulators are putting into motion plans for community solar programs under the state’s Future Energy Jobs Act that passed last year. In filings with the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) last month, ComEd outlined proposed terms and conditions for “Community Supply,” also referred to as community solar. Ameren Illinois has also recently filed paperwork with the ICC outlining changes to net metering policies as the state moves to implement community solar.So far, the filings are relatively narrow in scope, setting the table for bigger debates over how community solar and other aspects of Illinois’ changing energy landscape impact ratepayers. Both utilities are essentially defining the terms of how consumers will be credited in a community solar arrangement, and a decision by the ICC is expected by the end of the month.

New Indiana law limits amount energy companies pay for solar energy, increases demand

Indiana Public Media | Posted on September 14, 2017

n a news release, officials from SIREN announced that six weeks into a second phase of solar panel installations, they were already oversubscribed. The group credits the increased interest to several factors including a new law that passed earlier this year.The law decreases the amount utility companies are required to pay for excess energy being produced by sources like rooftop solar panels.If the panels are installed before December 31, they maintain their eligibility for higher reimbursement rates for 30 years.Several solar initiatives across the state have encouraged Hoosiers to sign up for solar installations now before the rates change at the end of the year. Because of this, solar companies are faced with a high demand without the ability to supply to all of their customers.Solarize Bloomington contracts out to the solar installation company Third Sun Solar.Organizers are currently looking for a second contractor to fulfill more installations by the end of the year.