…and people still think solar’s not worth it?
The first quarter of 2014 was another big one for the U.S. solar industry, with 74 percent of all new electric generating capacity across the country coming from solar power. The 1,330 megawatts of solar photovoltaics (PV) installed last quarter bring the total in the U.S. up to 14.8 gigawatts of installed capacity — enough to power three million homes, according to GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).
In addition to being the largest quarter ever for concentrating solar power, a method of large-scale solar generation that uses a unique ‘salt battery’ to allow the solar plant to keep producing power even when the sun goes down, it was also the first time in the history of SEIA’s reports that residential solar installations surpassed commercial in the same time period. 232 MW of residential PV were installed in the first quarter, compared to 225 MW of commercial solar.(Think Progress)
Of course, power utilities aren’t exactly enthralled about it…just look at the attempts across the country to force solar-power users to pay outrageous fees in return for going solar; while solar power may not be the right choice for everyone, its’ certainly worth the investment, both in terms of lower electrical prices and in a better climate for all of us.
Given America’s energy needs at present, this is good news…
The U.S. Army announced plans on Monday to begin construction on the Department of Defense’s largest solar array on a military installation. Groundbreaking for the 20-megawatt project will take place on April 25, with commercial operations slated to begin late this year. It will provide about a quarter of the annual electricity use for Fort Huachuca in southeast Arizona.
“The project establishes a new path for an innovative partnering opportunity among the U.S. Army, other federal agencies, private industry and the utility provider,” said Richard Kidd, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for energy and sustainability. “I applaud the significant efforts and teamwork to bring this project to fruition — and set the example for other large scale renewable energy opportunities.”
The project is being installed under a purchase power agreement in which the solar installer, in this case Tucson Electric Power, pays for installation, operation, and maintenance and then pays down costs and generates revenue through sales of electricity. The project is an example of public-private industry collaboration in which no taxpayer dollars will be spent. The installation, design, engineering and construction of the project will be overseen by E.ON, a multinational investor-owned energy supplier.(Think Progress)
From an economic standpoint, this kind of plan makes sense: it is a private-public partnership with no taxpayer funds at stake…in addition, from a national security standpoint, it makes sense in that no fossil fuels will have to either be used to build said project or be used to supply energy needs for Ft. Huachuca; even if power supplies elsewhere were disrupted, the base would continue to have a reasonable power supply system. As one analyst put it:
“The military’s clean energy installation initiatives are gathering momentum, enhancing base energy security,” Phyllis Cuttino, who directs Pew’s project on national security, energy, and climate, said when the study was released in January. “These improvements are possible even as the Pentagon’s budget is shrinking because the armed services are harnessing private-sector expertise and resources. This is a win-win-win proposition: The military gets better energy infrastructure, taxpayer dollars are saved, and the clean energy industry is finding new market opportunities.”(Think Progress)
…a win-win-win proposition indeed…
Now can we begin discussing America’s addiction to fossil fuels?
On the weekend of the 25th anniversary of the disastrous Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska, officials announced that a collision of a barge and a ship in the busy Houston Ship Channel spilled as much as 168,000 of its nearly million-gallon cargo of thick, sticky marine fuel called RMG 380, “a special bunker fuel oil often used in shipping that doesn’t evaporate easily.” The channel was still closed at the moment this was written, leaving at least 80 ships unable to get in or get out. The U.S. Coast Guard said part of the channel could be reopened soon, but they offered no timeline for that or for containing the spill. Cause of the collision is under investigation.
Two of the six-member barge crew were treated from exposure to fumes. Such exposure can irritate lungs, eyes and skin, and the “vapor may contain hydrogen sulfide (H2S) gas which can be harmful or fatal if inhaled,” states the Material Safety Data Sheet.(Daily Kos)
Even if the spill doesn’t turn into another Exxon Valdez or Deepwater Horizon, the effects are already starting to be felt…
…Richard Gibbons, conservation director for the Houston Audubon Society, said he had already received reports and photographs of oiled birds at the Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary near the spill. Staff there reported smelling the oil on shore, but had yet to spot the oily sheen on the water.
Oiled birds that have flown into the sanctuary, Gibbons said, include ruddy turnstones, laughing gulls and American white pelicans, and some shore birds have also appeared with oil — a sign the oil has made it to shore.
The sanctuary attracts 50,000 to 70,000 shorebirds annually to its shallow mud flats. Gibbons said he was working with state officials responding to the spill to ensure the environmental effects are limited.(Los Angeles Times)
For years I used to be an ardent supporter of fossil fuel consumption, regardless of the consequences…nowadays, not so much.
Booman Tribune’s dead-to-rights in regards to President Obama’s nomination of Montana Sen. Max Baucus(D-MT) to become the next Ambassador to China; my own take is that he’s right on this one.
Say whatever you want about President Obama, but this again should remind us that the president isn’t just thinking about his own good fortunes but that he’s also thinking about the Democratic Party’s fortunes going into 2014.
You know, the more I read this, the more I have to wonder: what the hell is going on at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission?
The leading plaintiffs in a lawsuit that put all licensing decisions for U.S. nuclear power plants on ice a year ago have been hinting in recent weeks that the legal battle over the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s so-called “waste confidence” rule is far from finished.
In a 2012 ruling, a federal appeals court found that the commission – the federal entity through which all commercial reactors must seek permission to operate — had not done enough analysis to justify the “confidence” it professed that radioactive waste generated by U.S. plants ultimately would be disposed of safely.
The court said that the commission had not adequately considered the prospect of catastrophic, terrorism-instigated spent-fuel pool fires at reactor sites in the interim. Nor did it thoroughly weigh the fact that the Obama administration had canceled the Yucca Mountain repository project in Nevada without yet identifying a replacement, according to the appeals bench.
NRC officials in September proposed a new waste-confidence rule that they assert addresses the court’s concerns. They published the proposal despite warnings from plaintiffs earlier this year that the scope of an environmental review supporting the rule was not broad enough. Criticism has since continued.(Nuclear Threat Initiative)
Now, to be fair, this is a valid criticism: since 9/11, the NRC has been given, among other things, the responsibility of ensuring the safety of nuclear energy facilities across the United States against terrorist and other threats but you’d think that after a certain point the NRC would get around to figuring out what rules to implement…
Given that the House has yet to pass any kind of meaningful legislation, at least we know where their screwed-up priorities are at for the moment…
After a relatively quiet year on the energy and environment front, House Republicans are again revving up attacks on President Obama’s policies for energy development, this time with a pair of bills that would chip away at the administration’s authority over oil and gas production on federal lands.
Much of the debate scheduled for the House floor Wednesday will focus on legislation sponsored by Rep. Bill Flores, R-Texas, to block the Interior Department from regulating fracking on public lands where state regulations are already on the books.
Ahead of Wednesday’s debate, supporters of the measure framed it as an attempt to ward off a regulatory regime that would prove harmful to the domestic oil and gas boom.
“We have a shale-energy revolution in this country and the federal government shouldn’t be doing anything to jeopardize that,” Flores told National Journal Daily. “This bill would put the power to regulate back into the hands of the people who do it best—the states.”
House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings, R-Wash., similarly painted the legislation as an attempt to block the administration from slowing oil and natural-gas production.
“Imposing a ‘one-size-fits-all’ federal regulation on hydraulic fracturing would add costly and duplicative layers of red tape that would only stand in the way of increased American energy production,” Hastings said.
The legislation is expected to pass but is not likely to win many Democratic votes. “I will not be supporting this bill,” Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., commented ahead of the vote. “The Obama administration has proposed reasonable regulations for hydraulic fracturing, and they should be allowed to go forward.”(National Journal)
I’m of two minds here. On the one hand, Democrats are dead-to-rights correct in criticizing Republicans on taking this up when there are other substantive things that they could be doing. On the other hand, there needs to be a clear balance between protecting the environment and providing for affordable, safe energy resources for Americans.
Question: Prior to October 2013, when was the last time the United States produced more oil for domestic usage than it had to import in?
If you answered 1995, congratulations! For the first time in nearly 2 decades, the United States produced more oil than it had to import, according to the federal Energy Information Agency. Two reasons were generally cited by most experts: (1)the burgeoning practice of hydraulic fracturing (a/k/a fracking) and (2)continued improvements in fuel-efficiency and energy-efficiency. Indeed, the percentage of imported oil fell from a high of 60% back in 2005 down to 35%, its’ lowest point since 1973, when it was also 35% during the Nixon Administration.
I’m of two minds here…on the one hand, I still very much want to see the United States eventually wean itself off of fossil fuels (and given their finiteness and slowly rising costs, America will eventually wean itself off of fossil fuels). On the other hand, having more domestically produced oil means that less of our dollars went to hostile and not-so-friendly regimes around the world and that is a good thing.