On the Blogs: Emerging Economies Lead Renewable Investment Surge FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Tim Smedley for Raconteur.net:The biggest renewable investors included Chile ($3.5 billion, up 157 per cent) South Africa ($4.5 billion, up 329 per cent) and Morocco ($2 billion, up from almost zero in 2014). India saw investments rise 22 per cent to $10.2 billion while China, now the world’s biggest investor in renewable technology, spent $102.9 billion on renewables (36 percent of the world total).If you consider investments relative to annual GDP, the top five investors globally were actually Mauritania, Honduras, Uruguay, Morocco and Jamaica. Meanwhile, Costa Rica is remarkably close to becoming the first developing country to have 100 per cent renewable electricity.“Wind and solar power are now being adopted in many developing countries as a natural and substantial part of the generation mix,” says Michael Liebreich, chairman of the advisory board at BNEF. “They can be produced more cheaply than often high wholesale power prices; they reduce a country’s exposure to expected future fossil fuel prices and, above all, they can be built very quickly.”While Europe is looking to more expensive offshore wind options to appease not-in-my-back-yard voters, many developing countries are happy with cheaper on-shore and solar options. This in turn means the companies selling those technologies are increasingly looking towards emerging markets. Total renewable investment in Europe actually slipped 21 per cent to $48.8 billion in 2015 and today’s growth market is in the global south.Kirsty Hamilton, an expert in renewable energy investment at Chatham House, outlines the mix of factors at play, including cost-reductions, strong government policies and investors actively looking for opportunities. The big European projects, such as Germany’s Energiewende, may have driven the growth in renewable energy technology, says Ms Hamilton, but recent political flip-flopping has seen investors “head to the least risky countries”.India’s prime minister Narendra Modi launched a global solar alliance at the Paris climate conference in December, with his own country aiming to increase solar installations from just below 5GW to 100GW by 2022. To put that into perspective, the UK’s entire nuclear capacity is currently 10GW. This would be more than double the present solar capacity of current global leader China.The project might sound far-fetched, but it is already underway. SB Energy, a joint Japanese-Taiwanese venture, recently won a bid for a 350MW project in India’s Andhra Pradesh province. The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis describes India as “executing one of the most radical energy sector transformations ever undertaken.”Full item: Developing countries lead in clean energy
Wind Farms Are Overtaking Coal-Fired Electricity in Texas FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Houston Chronicle:Wind power, by one important measure, surpassed coal last week to become the second-largest electricity source in Texas, yet another milestone in the state’s march toward greater reliance on renewable energy.When a 155-megawatt wind farm in West Texas began commercial operation this month, it pushed the state’s wind power capacity to more than 20,000 megawatts, surpassing 19,800 megawatts of capacity from coal-fired power plants, according to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which oversees 90 percent of the state’s grid. One megawatt is enough to power 200 homes on a hot Texas day.While ERCOT still gets most of its power from natural gas and coal, wind power generation now accounts for 15 percent of the power mix — up from just 2 percent a decade ago.The imminent shutdown of three coal-fired power plants owned by Dallas-based Vistra Energy and the loss of their 4,000 megawatts of capacity will further tip the scales in wind’s favor, said Joshua Rhodes, a research fellow at the University of Texas’ Energy Institute in Austin. In October, Vistra announced the pending shutdowns of its Monticello, Big Brown and Sandow coal plants, triggering the loss of more than 800 jobs and the closure of two coal mines. The shutdown of the Vistra plants are the first retirements of coal-fired power plants since Texas deregulated power markets in 2002.“We are used to seeing wind numbers add, add, add,” Rhodes said. “We are not used to seeing coal plants’ numbers decreasing.”Rhodes is already watching for the next milestone — when Texas’ wind farms will generate more power than its coal plants. Based on models of ERCOT, Rhodes expects that switch to happen in 2019. ERCOT, meanwhile, is looking to transform the way it predicts surges in wind — a mercurial power source in West Texas, where winds blow strongest at night when power demand is lowest, sometimes producing so much electricity that they drive wholesale prices to zero.More: Wind power blows past coal in Texas
Rhode Island offshore wind project to cost less than 10 cents per kilowatt-hour FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Providence Journal:When critics assailed the high price awarded to Deepwater Wind nearly a decade ago for power from what would be the first offshore wind farm in the nation, the Providence company and its supporters in Rhode Island state government vowed that savings would come with future projects down the line.With a proposed agreement announced Thursday, they would fulfill that promise.Under the contract filed with the Public Utilities Commission, National Grid would pay Deepwater, now part of Danish-owned Orsted U.S. Offshore Wind, a flat rate over 20 years of 9.8 cents per kilowatt hour for power from its Revolution Wind Farm, a 400-megawatt project proposed in Rhode Island Sound.And critically, the deal is projected to save Rhode Island about $90 million in energy costs over the life of the contract, or about 50 cents per month for the typical electric customer in the state.The power purchase agreement proves that Rhode Island can develop renewable energy at an affordable cost, state energy commissioner Carol Grant said in an interview. “It’s not either/or. It’s not clean or affordable. It’s both,” she said.More: National Grid contract with Orsted would save customers $90 million over 20 years
Empire District Electric proposes closing Asbury coal plant in Missouri FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享S&P Global Market Intelligence ($):Empire District Electric Co. continues to see no future for its coal-fired Asbury power plant in Missouri and could potentially shutter the facility as soon as the end of this year.The Algonquin Power & Utilities Corp. subsidiary, which goes by Empire District Electric, a Liberty Utilities company, has filed with the Missouri Public Service Commission an integrated resource plan proposing retirement of the 198-MW plant by the end of this year and the addition of solar and storage resources starting in 2022. The plan also incorporates 600 MW of new wind generation that had previously been approved by regulators.The company said the plant, located in Jasper County, Mo., is “not a cost-effective resource for customers going forward,” given capital investments needed to meet environmental regulations and tough market conditions that are not expected to improve. Further, there are less expensive options to meet future capacity and energy needs, namely solar, wind and storage technologies.While the plan floats the idea of a 2019 retirement date, the company said it might take longer to close the plant, given notice requirements and shutdown procedures. For instance, Empire District has to give six months’ notice of a planned retirement to the Southwest Power Pool, safely and reliably run the plant with minimum staff levels and combust as much of the usable coal as possible.Company officials will continue to assess the best time to retire Asbury in the coming months. “In the meantime, Empire is currently working with an independent engineering firm to assess the potential demolition costs as well as evaluate whether the plant can be sold and if not, what might be salvaged to help mitigate closure costs,” the company said.Empire District in 2017 proposed to retire the plant, which has been operating since 1970, as part of a plan to develop 800 MW of wind by the end of 2020. At the time, the company said it wanted to retire the plant before making $20 million in environmental compliance upgrades needed by April 2019. But after discussions with stakeholders, the company revised the plan to add 600 MW of wind instead of 800 MW and keep the Asbury plant operating pending the development of an integrated resource plan. The commission approved the updated proposal in July 2018.More ($): Empire District suggests earlier retirement of Mo. coal plant
BP announces plans to boost green energy spending, cut oil and gas production FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享CNN:BP is planning to slash oil and gas production and pour billions of dollars into clean energy as part of a major strategic overhaul unveiled on Tuesday, alongside a huge second quarter loss and dividend cut.The London-based company said that it plans a 10-fold increase in annual low carbon investments to $5 billion by 2030 as it tries to deliver on its promise of net zero emissions by 2050 and prepares for a world that uses much less oil. BP shares rose as much as 8% in London.The company expects demand for fossil fuels to fall by 75% over the next 30 years if the increase in global temperatures is limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius, or by 50% if warming is less than 2 degrees, BP head of strategy Giulia Chierchia told investors. BP said its oil and gas production will fall by at least one million barrels a day by 2030, a 40% reduction on 2019 levels. The bulk of its annual capital expenditure over the next five years will, however, still be in oil and gas.“We believe that what we are setting out today offers a compelling and attractive long-term proposition for all investors,” CEO Bernard Looney said in a statement.BP’s plan to pivot away from oil after a century of exploration will involve major investments into bioenergy, hydrogen and carbon capture and storage. It is also targeting 70,000 electric vehicle charging points, up from 7,500 at present. At the same time, BP will reduce its oil and gas refining portfolio and aims to raise $25 billion by selling assets over the next five years.BP reported a loss of $16.8 billion for the second quarter, as it wrote down the value of certain assets, including untapped oil and gas reserves, because of reduced forecasts for the price of oil.[Hanna Ziady]More: BP will slash oil production by 40% and pour billions into green energy
I’ve been a “Big Brother” with Big Brothers Big Sisters of WNC for over a year now and the experience has been a rewarding one for both myself and my little brother Jordan. Probably a big reason why we were matched together was because of our fondness of sports. To date we have participated in many activities involving some form of exercise, culminating with this past weekend’s 3rd Annual Run for Kid’s Sake 5k on the beautiful Warren Wilson Campus.I signed us both up for this race as the proceeds directly benefit BBBS of WNC. Running together for a great cause and a chance to work up some sweat on a summer morning was too tempting to pass up. Jordan seemed excited about the race prior but race morning he was quieter than normal and probably a little nervous for his first ever 5k. Race morning provided us with nice weather and a great turnout of well over 100 other runners. I also saw several other “bigs” getting ready to run with their “littles”.Jordan and I started off at a nice and controlled pace for the first mile, a perfect way to start a 5k race. Jordan seemed happy, determined and focused. After passing the first mile marker on the Warren Wilson Farm gravel road, we approached an aid station and the trail section of the course along the Swannanoa River. As I looked ahead I saw runners swatting at their legs and backside, immediately I knew what was happening or what was going to happen….bees.As we got to this section I looked over at Jordan and yelled to run this next 50 feet very fast. I didn’t explain why as I knew that could cause a log jam of runners right over the bee’s nest. Well we both got stung in the ankle. However Jordan apparently had never been stung by a bee before as I found out shortly after when asking if he was allergic. He was a real trooper and fought through the initial pain and soon started running once again. Unfortunately I got stuck behind some other runners in a single file line on the narrow trail. Eventually I was able to get around everyone and catch back up to my swift moving friend just before mile 2 on the course.I mentioned to Jordan as we ran together that the last mile was the toughest mile so he would be prepared. We made our way up the last hilly section and I could tell he was getting pretty tired. As I’ve done many times to myself inwardly at races, I told Jordan that we need to really finish strong. He gave me a funny look as if to say “what is wrong with this man?” Anyways he did pick up the pace and had a strong finishing kick. As we rounded the corner to the finish line, Jordan was greeted by several cheering family members who came out to watch him race. He finished 85th overall and he was 2nd in his age group with a great time of 37:29. Not bad at all for his first 5k! It was great to see all the smiles after the finish, especially all the “littles” who probably had just completed their first 5k. 1 2
Do mountain bikers damage trails more than other users? Yes: 25%I am a volunteer maintainer for both the Appalachian Trail and a local nature center, neither of which allows bicycles. I can spot bicycle damage immediately, either as knobby tire marks or long skid marks as the rider brakes downhill. Log-jumping produces its own damage as the bottom of the chain abrades the top of the log. Repairs are much more difficult than hiking boot damage or even hiking pole damage. Let bike riders have their own trails and have fun. But they should not be allowed to use hiking trails.—Karl Kunkel, Chicago, Ill.Mountain bikers rival horse packers and four-wheelers for the most damage done to the outdoors. Horse packers and four-wheelers probably don’t care but mountain bikers should.—Mike Boone, Forest City, N.C.No: 75%As a professional trail builder, I find that bikes fall somewhere in the middle. They do more damage than hikers, but less than horses. The impact bikers have on the trail is considerably less than most believe. They also tend to be more involved in trail maintenance.—Jim Davis, Washington, D.C.On hiking trails I see shortcuts and cut-thru trails made by hikers, causing severe erosion. I’ve never seen mountain bikes do that kind of damage.—K, Atlanta, Ga.Trail damage is mostly horse travel and four-wheelers. With IMBA and new and sustainable trail construction, there is less trail damage.—Jim, Denver, Colo.More wilderness: yay or nay? Yes: 88%With increasing urban sprawl I think creating national wilderness areas is essential to preserving what was here originally. We need to put something in the way of their bulldozers.—Brittany, Lynchburg, Va.Wilderness connects wild habitat up the spine of the Appalachians, and it connects us all with our primal, solitary selves.—Ben, Asheville, N.C.Development will continue to encroach on natural areas, unless we designate and zone these areas accordingly. Our most pristine lands are being gated from the public.—Bailey Woods, Easley, S.C.We need wilderness now more than ever. Its preservation is essential to the natural environment, our quality of life, and to future generations.—Fred Jamison, Charlotte, N.C.No: 10%I’m all for preservation of nature, and I know that we could create jobs by doing so. But history has shown that trying to preserve land by interfering with it has been unwise. Look at Yellowstone’s history of trying to protect the elk by getting rid of wolves, then dealing with the coyote overpopulation by importing wolves from Canada. Nature should be left alone completely, even from protection.—Caleb Jaqua, Charlotte, N.C.Practice what you preach. I am tired of the purists who decry the fall of a single tree yet purchase items that require many trees to be cut. Where do people think these resources come from?—Ingles Alexander, via e-mail
Eminent Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson says that fully half of the planet’s higher life forms could be gone within 100 years, joining the dodo bird, sketched here, which has been extinct since the 17th century and whose fate was directly attributable to human activity. Photo: ThinkstockDear EarthTalk: I heard that species of flora and fauna are dying at a growing rate globally. How is this calculated and which types of species are dwindling faster?–– Colin Gooder, Franklin, NCResearchers believe that the rate of species loss currently underway is 100-1,000 times faster than what was normal (the so-called “background rate” of extinction) prior to human overpopulation and its negative environmental effects. But thanks to overhunting, deforestation, pollution, the spread of non-native species and now climate change, we are likely in the midst of the sixth mass extinction in the geologic history of the world. The previous mass extinction, 65 million years ago, wiped out the dinosaurs and other species; the previous one, 250 million years ago, killed off 90 percent of all species on the planet.While the current mass extinction might in reality not be that bad—only time will tell—eminent Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson predicts that the rate of species loss could top 10,000 times the background rate by 2030, and that fully half of the planet’s higher life forms could be gone within 100 years. This jibes with statistics from the non-profit International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)—keeper of the global “Red List” of endangered species—which currently considers 37.8 percent of the world’s already classified species to be threatened. Of course, this is far from the whole story, as biologists think that we have only classified 10 percent or less of the world’s total number of plant and animal species.Which types of species are being hit hardest? An analysis of IUCN statistics from 2008 found that of the world’s fauna (animals), invertebrates (animals without backbones, such as earthworms, shellfish and insects) were suffering the most, with 40.5 percent of those classified considered threatened. Next hardest hit were fish species, with 36.6 percent threatened, followed by reptiles at 30.5 percent and amphibians at 30.4 percent. Meanwhile, 20.8 percent of mammal species were threatened and 12.2 percent of birds.More shocking was the statistic that some 70.1 percent of plant species are at risk. However, a more recent (2010) study found that only 22 percent of the world’s classified plants are actually facing extinction. This finding has led analysts to question conservationists’ estimates in regard to animal species loss as well.In lieu of any direct way to measure the rate of species loss, conservationists have relied on reversing the so-called “species-area relationship,” whereby scientists tally the number of species in a given area and then estimate how quickly more show up or evolve as viable habitat increases (or decreases in the case of reversing the concept). But lately this method of tracking and predicting species losses has been criticized for generating overestimates. “The overestimates can be very substantial,” argues UCLA evolutionary biologist Stephen Hubbell, “…but we are not saying [extinction] does not exist.”However many species may be dying, it’s clear we are in the midst of another mass extinction, and if you believe 70 percent of biologists, unlike previous mass extinctions humanity is most likely the cause. Conservationists remain optimistic that we can marshal the resources to turn the tide—and we’ll need to if the planet is to remain habitable for our species, given our own dependencies on the world’s biodiversity.CONTACTS: E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation, www.eowilson.org; IUCN, www.iucn.org; “Species-area relationships always overestimate extinction rates from habitat loss,” www.nature.com/nature/journal/v473/n7347/full/nature09985.html.EarthTalk® is written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss and is a registered trademark of E – The Environmental Magazine (www.emagazine.com). Send questions to: [email protected] Subscribe: www.emagazine.com/subscribe; Free Trial Issue: www.emagazine.com/trial.
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Ironically, one of the first things I did when the road racing season ended was sign up for another bike race, the Shenandoah Mountain 100. Each fall, I recover some technical skills and maintain some fitness by training on the trails with Virginia’s mountain bike hero, Jeremiah Bishop. We piece together routes around Bishop’s home town, Harrisonburg, and mine, Charlottesville, always eager to show off our latest discoveries. Although we rack up huge rides, it never feels like training. The lack of structure is relaxing after a year of carefully calculated efforts. These unscripted rides are too fun to call work. Plus, at the end of a day on our fat tires, we can drink one. We aren’t training for anything, just riding for the love.Bishop and other friends pressured me into the Shenandoah Mountain 100 (SM100), but I was an easy sell. The race captures the titillating spirit of adventure that hooked me on cycling.I had dreamed of riding the SM100 ever since age 14, when seven bucks was equivalent to an hour of yard work. I couldn’t come up with the entry fee and asked my dad to sponsor me. He thought the race was too heavy for a 14- year-old and would ruin my cross-country running season. It’s been on my bucket list ever since.My road season ended earlier than the past six years, and I finally had a chance this year. The hitch was that I hadn’t ridden my mountain bike since I left Virginia last December. Fresh off the seven day Tour of Colorado, I didn’t worry about my legs or cardio, but when suspension buckling boulders and loose shale downhills rattled my roady hands, t-rex arms and bony back to failure after three hours, I’d be like a gorilla driving a Porsche straight into a tree. My friends actually made bets on which section of the technical course I would most likely eat it. I must have looked as amateur as I felt, because one rider in the parking area muttered, “Who’s the poser in the RadioShack kit?” Therefore, the race was more about the experience than the competition for me.Most riders added to the experience by camping at the Stokesville Observatory. The campground was coming to life when I arrived at five in the morning. Like the beginning of a medieval battle scene, riders sipped coffee, stretched, tuned their weaponry, and mounted their steeds in the moonlight. At the race director’s command, we lined up and charged into battle against each other, ourselves, the clock, and the terrain. As we climbed a gravel road, the sun rose with us lighting the first section of singletrack.We plunged down a trail called Tillman, an exhilarating new piece of the area’s ever-growing trail network. When Bishop introduced me to Tillman on one of our 2012 escapades, we rode it three times in a row. Roadies never use words like “stoked,” but we were literally in Stokesville. At the base of the descent, nearly everyone I saw was grinning and behind us we heard the whoops of riders hitting the table top jumps and banked turns.It didn’t take long for my upper body to cramp and blister, but something about being in the race zone and the Jay-Z song stuck in my head combined to create “mad flow” despite the pain. I think the song goes, “Still that mountain biker—stayin’ alive.” And, when I followed Bishop on the downhills, that’s what it was—stayin’ alive. When it started pouring rain on a rocky, off-camber, sidehill trail, I nearly surrendered to good judgment. But I was having too much fun to stop. It felt like driving a roller coaster.My giddiness began to fade farther into the race. Each steep climb and harrowing descent trimmed the lead group. Bishop led most of the single track. He knew everything about the course so I picked at him like a toddler in the back seat. “How long is this descent? How far till the climb? When is the aid station? Are we there yet?” We approached a segment nicknamed The Death Climb, and I attacked. Only Bishop came across and we worked together to build our lead over the chasers.When Bishop’s rear tire went soft, I waited. He had coached me through the race and I didn’t want to take advantage of a technicality. In fact, I had relied so heavily on his experience and skills that if we came to the line together, I wouldn’t have contested. However, we made the same calculations. With a two minute lead over Christian Taguay minus three minutes for Bishop to repair the flat tire, I had to leave him. At his home race, it hurt him to say, “Go on, man. I have to change this thing.” We parted as gentlemen, then raced like savages.My lead stretched over the final kilometers and it was enough to win. Jeremiah regained second place, and Taguay placed third. Although I never crashed, I was wrecked. It was a week before I could stand up straight or give a firm handshake.Stokesville Observatory, where the battle began, became a field celebration, with burgers and beer and muddy warriors cheering on other finishers. Like most of the 600 participants, I showed up to enjoy the outdoors, try something extraordinary, and do so amid a community of like-minded people. Mission accomplished.Ben King is a national champion cyclist living and training in Charlottesville, Va.