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December 19 Green Energy News

Headline News:

  • In largely positive review of US energy policy, the International Energy Agency scolded the federal government for failing on consistent long-term policy support for energy with low carbon emissions, such as nuclear power and renewables. The IEA recommends a 5-year extension of the wind tax credit, gradually reduced to zero. [Forbes]
  • The amount of clean power made in Scotland has matched that produced from fossil fuels for the first time, in a record year for renewables, ­according to the latest figures. Renewable sources accounted for 32% of all Scottish electricity  – equal to the output from oil, coal and gas. Nuclear power stations provided 34.9 per cent. [Scotsman]
  • Two recent studies disproved the ideas that wind farms affect health and property values, and now a review by the British Trust for Ornithology and the University of Highlands and Islands’ Environmental Research Institute found that 99% of seabirds are likely to alter their flight paths to avoid collision with offshore wind turbines. [CleanTechnica]
  • In a budget forecast punctuated by fiscal belt tightening, Australia’s fossil fuel sector is set to receive a whopping $47 billion in federal government subsidies over the next four years, a new report has found. The analysis, released on Thursday by the Australian Conservation Foundation, is based on federal budget data. [RenewEconomy]
  • Energy demand in Germany is set to fall by nearly 5% over the course of this year, new figures this week predict, providing further evidence the government’s Energiewende transition to a low carbon energy system is starting to build momentum. German energy use fell to 445.5 million tonnes of coal equivalent this year. [Business Green]

December 18 Green Energy News

Headline News:

  • Off Grid Electric, a solar electric service company in Africa, says it delivers 50 times more light for less money. Its customers are using the service to replace kerosene lamps to light their homes. Customers pay an initial $6 installation fee for a self-sustaining solar system, then prepay for power. With new investment, it is growing. [CleanTechnica]
  • Over the next two years, America will build roughly 13 GW of utility-scale solar PV plants, more the country’s cumulative solar capacity across all sectors reached at the end of 2013. Why? Utilities are now able to consistently buy solar electricity from large plants for between 4.5 cents and 7.5 cents per kilowatt-hour. [Energy Collective]
  • New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Dec. 17 that hydraulic fracturing will be banned in New York, following the release of a long-anticipated study that concluded fracking could pose “significant public health risks.” 96% of all papers published on health impacts of fracking indicate potential risks or adverse health outcomes. [Wisconsin Gazette]
  • The Senate voted 76-16 to extend the biodiesel and renewable energy production tax credits – as well as dozens of other tax breaks – in one of its final acts before adjourning Tuesday. The measure extends the tax breaks for a year – but retroactive to their expiration last January, so the clock runs out again on December 31. [Houston Chronicle]
  • As flagship nuclear projects run into long delays and huge cost overruns, solar and wind power are falling in price. Renewables already supply twice as much power as nuclear, and are winning out just about everywhere. They now supply over 19% of global primary energy and 22% of global electricity. Nuclear is at 11% and falling. [The Ecologist]

December 17 Green Energy News

Headline News:

  • The head of one of Australia’s biggest electricity networks says he sees a long-term future for neither large, centralized electricity generators, nor big electricity retailers. He says the generators will be made redundant by the increased use of localized, mostly renewable generation, and the retailers won’t be needed any more. [CleanTechnica]
  • Japan’s nuclear regulator gave safety clearance to two more reactors Wednesday, raising the prospect that Japan could have four units back online next year to help power the nation’s economy. The approval comes three days after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe ’s pronuclear party won decisively in a general election. [Wall Street Journal]
  • The city of Austin raised its solar power goal from 200 MW by 2020 to 950 MW by 2025. 200 MW of this solar power will be operating within Austin’s city limits and 750 MW will be utility-scale solar. For the 200 MW within city limits, half has to be from customers, meaning residents or building owners with their own solar power PV systems. [CleanTechnica]
  • First Solar (one of the biggest solar module manufacturers and solar developers) has just partnered with Clean Energy Collective, a leading developer of community solar solutions, to advance community solar power. They will together develop and market community solar offerings to customers directly on behalf of client utilities. [CleanTechnica]
  • Vermont Governor Shumlin’s administration is considering replacing the SPEED program with a plan that would require the state’s electric utilities to sell a certain amount of renewable power to Vermont customers, an official said Monday. This would mean that Vermont would have a mandatory renewable energy standard. [Brattleboro Reformer]

December 16 Green Energy News

Headline News:

  • A study has found that switching to driving EVs that use electricity made from renewable energy can actually push down death rates due to air pollution by as much as 70%. The study also shows that EVs powered by coal-based electricity could increase the number of resulting deaths due to air pollution by 80% or more. [Zee News]
  • The American Public Transportation Association has just released its December Transit Savings Report, which shows that “individuals who ride public transportation instead of driving can also save, on average, more than $797 per month. This month the average annual savings for public transit riders is $9,569.” [CleanTechnica]
  • The nuclear expansion project at Plant Vogtle near Augusta appears headed for further delay, which could result in higher electric bills for ratepayers. The state’s independent construction monitor, William Jacobs, said last month he expects the two new reactors to take longer to build than Georgia Power’s current projections. [WABE 90.1 FM]
  • Europe’s largest battery storage project, the 10 MWh Smarter Network Storage at Leighton Buzzard substation in the UK, is operational. The fully automated 6-MW/10-MWh Smarter Network Storage has been installed at the Leighton Buzzard primary substation north-west of London. [solarserver.com]
  • In Massachusetts, Greenfield Community Light and Power will begin to offer 100% renewable power to its customers beginning January 1, through an agreement with ConEdison, which will provide renewable energy at a reduced price. Residents could expect to save $72 per year, and and businesses $144 per year. [EIN News]
  • The ceremonial installation of the 10,000th solar PV system on Long Island took place today at a private residence in Huntington as part of the State’s partnership with PSEG Long Island under the PowerUp Long Island and NY-Sun initiatives. Approximately, 41% of all solar systems in New YorkState have been installed on Long Island. [LongIsland.com]

For more news, please visit geoharvey - Daily News about Energy and Climate Change.

December 15 Green Energy News

Headline News:

  • United Nations climate talks in Lima concluded last night with an agreement that plots a path towards next year’s global negotiations in Paris, but without mentioning energy or renewable power. The agreement was widely criticised by campaigners for failing to commit to action on climate change. [reNews]
  • UAE Energy Minister Suhail al-Mazrouei says OPEC will not cut its output or hold an emergency meeting even if oil prices fall as low as $40 a barrel. Some oil ministers have said that the organization has no fear of oil prices falling to that level amid a price war with Russia and high-cost US shale producers. [Press TV]
  • Innovations already at work in some modern buildings provide a networked ecosystem of “intelligent” building equipment and devices. Beyond the “Wow!” factor and the large-scale benefits to our planet, green and smart building technologies are changing the way we live and work, creating business in the process. [TechCrunch]
  • Iberdrola Engineering and Construction has been hired to build a combined-cycle gas turbine electric generating plant in Salem, Massachusetts. Iberdrola Engineering will build the new 674-MW facility on a small portion of a 65-acre waterfront site now occupied by a decommissioned coal-and-oil-fired generating plant. [PennEnergy]
  • In Australia, Reposit Power says new technology will allow households and businesses to “buy low and sell high,” giving power customers who have solar and storage new possibilities by allowing them to maximize their earnings on the market. Equipment is being installed in six homes in Canberra to test the system. [RenewEconomy]

For more news, please visit geoharvey - Daily News about Energy and Climate Change.

Off-Grid Holiday Decorations in Randolph, Vermont

randolph_christmas_lights_snow_2_thanksgiving_2014_023-w1200By George Harvey

Last January, as the holiday decorations were being taken down in Randolph, Vermont, members of the Chamber of Commerce knew the wreaths and lights had seen their last useful year. They were just too old, worn out, and unreliable. The question was not whether to replace them, but what to replace them with.

“Randolph’s holiday decorations had come to the end of their useful life, and we were striving to find something that was environmentally friendly, and did not require the use of extension cords, light bulb strings, or rely on power from town street poles,” explained Emma Schuman, Director of the White River Valley Chamber of Commerce. They contacted twenty suppliers looking for the lights they wanted, but, Schuman explained, “Every company we called told us the technology was just not available yet.”

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Interestingly, they did not have to go all that far to find people who were actually coming up with new technology, and so were better aware and able to deal with the problems at hand. LEDdynamics, a manufacturer of LED lighting and controls, happens to be in Randolph, Vermont. So the Chamber contacted Bill McGrath, the President of LEDdynamics, and McGrath took the challenge on.

Getting electricity to LED lighting without using wires is not a difficult problem. They use very little power, and a small photovoltaic (PV) panel will do very nicely for the small number of lights in a wreath. Adding a battery is not a difficult problem; it is done all the time.

Randolph’s holiday lights, however, show how complicated a simple problem can be. They had to be solar powered in the winter, through cloudy days without much sunshine in the day, but have adequate power for nighttime use. Also, the batteries had to be able to work in the cold, when batteries really do not work all that well. Adding to the problem, a simple photosensor would not do for turning the lights on at night, because the wreaths are on street lights, which fool sensors into thinking it is daytime. Yet another problem was that the system has to be able to adjust output automatically, so the lights can consume less power when a string of cloudy days comes along.

All these problems were solved by LEDdynamics engineers. Each wreath is powered by an unobtrusive solar panel and a battery which, between them, can run the lights through five nights on the power from four hours of Vermont winter sunshine. A microprocessor is in the control unit for each wreath, setting the times for startup and shutdown of the lights. The processor also is able to determine how to set the output of the lights to conserve power.

Now Randolph has fifty wreaths on town streetlights. They are reliably lighted without extension cords. The wreaths are much easier to put up and take down. Since they are so reliable, they can provide a beautiful holiday sight in Randolph. And, since they are from LEDdynamics, they are about as locally-sourced as they could be.

Green Tips

By Deborah DeMoulpied

Tis the Season.
Good tidings.
Consumption.
New Year’s intensions.

And all at once.  No wonder it feels so over whelming.

As we head to do the holiday shopping, the report on the warmest year on record may dampen the spirit and cheer of the season. How can we in good consciousness buy new “stuff”? Does the kind of “stuff” it is really matter? Well, let’s hope so.

Everything has a carbon footprint. We all have a carbon footprint just by merely existing. Products have life cycles, materials can vary greatly, and production and transportation carbon costs differ immensely.  By choosing gifts with less environmental impact, we all stand to be better off in the long run. The old “vote with your dollar” could not be more appropriate. You can make a difference.

It is good news that the world leaders and countries are finally coming together and finding common ground to combat climate change. We also have to do our part – Buy what matters, make commitments, get involved, and vote for people who also care about the future.

For 2015, some words of wisdom (some make great bumper stickers) may help guide you  for green living awareness. Sayings? Tips? Advice? Mantras? Does it matter? How about just good food for thought:

  1. We All Live Downstream.
  2. Leave it Better than You Found It.
  3. Live Simply.
  4. When You Throw Something Away, Where Is Away?
  5. The Time to Do the Right Thing is Always Now.
  6. There Is No Planet B.
  7. Consume Less – Share More.
  8. There’s No Place Like Home.

Aged Naturally and Made in New England: Fortuna’s Sausage

By George Harvey

We first learned about Fortuna’s Sausage because it was chosen as a finalist in Martha Stewart’s “Made in America” contest. We are glad we did.

Patti with an assortment of Fortuna’s Sausage products.

Patti with an assortment of Fortuna’s Sausage products.

The story of Fortuna’s Sausage started over 100 years ago when a couple the family will probably always call Nani and Poppa moved to the United States from the southern Italian region of Calabria. With them, they brought a treasure trove of heritage and traditions of their old country.

Included in their traditions were recipes for making sausages. These were used as the basis of their business, when it was started in 1982. Today, the same unaltered ingredients are used. Nothing has been added, and nothing lost. And that makes a difference.

The old methods of curing sausage did not use nitrates. What they used instead were a little culture, a lot of patience, and abiding devotion. Fortuna’s sausages are cured by hanging them for weeks, until they are perfect. They do not need constant refrigeration, but that is not because of chemicals. Rather, it is because they are aged using processes nearly identical to those used to make fine cheese.

There is a story about this that is worth telling. A number of years ago, Patti and Paul wanted to bring a perfect, old-style sopresatta to market. They ran up against the problem that the US government requires a sopresatta to have nitrates. Patti and Paul drove to Washington DC to challenge the USDA on the issue, and within the course of a few hours convinced the government to allow them to sell their flagship sausage, “Soupy™,” without nitrates.

I was fortunate enough to be able to sample Fortuna’s Sausage products for this article. Soupy is outstanding. The pepperoni is clearly superior to any I have ever tasted before. I also tried their beef jerky that is so delightful I could call it a culinary miracle. Perhaps part of the miracle was due to the fact that Fortuna’s jerky is made using their own Vermont maple syrup.

Fortuna’s Sausage has standards that put quality of food above all else. This means that while they favor the idea of buying locally, enough local meats have never been available in the quality they require, so they do have to buy meat from good-quality suppliers in the Midwest. It also means their products are uncompromisingly made using the same traditional techniques that were used over a hundred years ago, when artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives were still a thing of the future.

Another plus for cured meat is that it does not require a lot of energy for cooking and refrigeration. Its reduced power load translates into a reduced need for attention to efficiency and renewable power sources. Nevertheless, the company is currently investigating sustainable energy options, including the installation of a solar array to power the business.

With Christmas before us and a short time to finish shopping, a quick trip to Fortuna’s website can make choosing a local Vermont Company’s products easy. This is food for the whole year, however, and we might remember that giving things that are delicious is always in good taste.

Fortuna’s is available in select stores, the Rutland Farmers’ Market, and online at fortunasausage.com.

Tar Sands Killing Thousands of Birds

Migrating birds negatively affected by oil extraction in Canada’s Boreal forest.

Canada Warbler, one of many birds that depend upon the region. Photo: William H. Maloros

Canada Warbler, one of many birds that depend upon the region. Photo: William H. Maloros

By EarthTalk®

Each year tens of millions of migratory birds live in or pass through the Canadian Boreal forest, a vast mostly uninhabited land stretching from Newfoundland to the Yukon. It covers 60% of Canada’s area, and serves as a part-time home for more than half of America’s avian population. But environmentalists are worried about the impact increasing “tar sands” oil development there might have on wildlife population.

Tar sands contain a tar-like form of petroleum called bitumen. This is extracted and eventually refined. The extraction process is especially “carbon-intensive,” making it some of the dirtiest fuel around, but its abundance makes it affordable.

A recently released report by the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM) concluded that almost half of the 292 different migratory bird species spend time in Canada’s Boreal forest, and as many as 75 million birds are threatened by future tar sands development. Further, they say, bird losses in the hundreds of thousands have already taken place as a result of overzealous and under-regulated oil development.

“The direct and indirect impacts to birds from tar sands development are immense,” states the report. “Waterfowl and shorebirds land in tailings ponds that they mistake for natural water bodies and become oiled with waste bitumen and toxic elements.” The result can be birds drowning, dying from hypothermia, or being poisoned.

U.S. State Department analysis shows that tar sands oil is 20% more carbon-pollution intensive than conventional oil on a “well-to-wheel” basis. Environmentalists would like to see U.S. lawmakers deny permits for the transport of Canadian Boreal tar sands oil through the U.S. in hopes of making future tar sands projects there too expensive to be worthwhile.

“Saying no to tar sands is a critical pillar in an effective strategy to protect wildlife from carbon pollution,” says the NWF. But it remains to be seen if the Obama administration will allow construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline to transport the oil from Canada through the U.S. The welfare of millions of birds and our clean energy future are at stake.

Contacts: NWF, www.nwf.org; NRCM, www.nrcm.org.

EarthTalk® is written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss and is a registered trademark of E – The Environmental Magazine (www.emagazine.com).

Craftsbury Outdoor Center Opens New Sustainable Touring Center Facility

By Roger Lohr

The owners of the Craftsbury Outdoor Center have an ambitious goal of becoming 100% carbon neutral.

The owners of the Craftsbury Outdoor Center have an ambitious goal of becoming 100% carbon neutral.

The Craftsbury Outdoor Center in Vermont announced the opening of a new facility to house its Touring Center, as well as a café, fitness room, waxing room, meeting space and more. This structure was built to be energy-efficient and environmentally friendly, using energy-saving designs and local materials wherever possible.

The Craftsbury facility has 3,000 square feet of photovoltaic solar panels on the roof, which will be set up for net metering (selling electric power to the energy company when possible), so that the facility will have net-zero annual electricity usage. The building structure incorporates locally sourced wood for paneling and recycled steel beams for support.

The locker rooms feature composting toilets, as well as low-flow water fixtures, timed showers, and hand-dryers to minimize paper towel waste. The heating system will incorporate waste heat from the snowmaking system along with a high-efficiency wood boiler, supplemented with solar thermal and a heat pump as needed. An electric charging station will be installed near the building in the future for electric vehicles.

The Craftsbury Outdoor Center mission includes the use and teaching of sustainable practices. In 2004, Craftsbury Outdoor Center joined the Green Hotels program and its Cedar Lodge was designated  “green” by the organization. In 2010, eight tracking solar arrays were installed on site at the center yielding about 45,000 kilowatt hours of energy annually, offsetting about 35% of the center’s electric use. The new building furthers Craftsbury Outdoor Center on its quest to become a steward of environmentally-friendly practices.

Roger Lohr is a freelance writer and the founder of XCSkiresorts.com. Find more about Craftsbury Outdoor Center at www.craftsbury.com and www.xcskiresorts.com/xcVTCrafts.php.