By Staff of The Intelligencer – FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — A former strip mine would be converted into a solar farm under a proposal announced Tuesday by an Appalachian coal company that says it wants to place hundreds of thousands of panels in the Kentucky mountains. The Berkeley Energy Group, EDF Renewable Energy and former Democratic state Auditor Adam Edelen said they are looking at two mountaintop removal sites just outside of Pikeville in the heart of Kentucky’s coal country. It’s the latest example of efforts to diversify the energy output of the nation’s third-largest coal producing state, which has been hit hard by the economic impact of the declining coal industry. Last month, the state legislature voted to end the state’s decades-long moratorium on nuclear energy. And earlier this month, the Kentucky Coal Museum installed solar panels on its roof. “We can build solar on the foundation of coal,” Edelen said. “Kentucky has long been an energy producer that has powered the entire country. There’s no reason why we can’t continue to be that, but we have to adopt an all of the above energy strategy.”
By Robinson Meyer for The Atlantic – It’s less obvious than it may seem. The global industry is a $65-billion business, and the United States has been involved in it from the beginning. NASA first improved and perfected panels for early satellite and Apollo missions. American firms have been manufacturing and selling solar panels for 40 years. Yet North American firms produce only about 3 percent of the world’s solar panels. China and Taiwan, meanwhile, make more than 60 percent of them. Labor in East Asia is often cheaper than it is in the United States, but that’s not the only factor. Consider the global semiconductor industry. Both computer chips and solar panels emerged from the Cold War research-and-development boom. Both were commercialized before 1980, as American-invented products sold by American-owned firms. And both markets were essentially controlled by the United States before the rise of Asian firms in the mid-1980s and ’90s. But chips, which first went to market a decade earlier than solar panels, did not suffer the same catastrophe that solar panels did. Today, the United States still leads the computer-chip industry, holding more than half of global market share for 20 years.
By Harvey Wasserman and Tim Judson for Intrepid Report – Elon Musk’s SolarCity is completing the construction of its “Buffalo Billion” Gigafactory for photovoltaic (PV) cells near the Niagara River in Buffalo, New York. It will soon put 500 New Yorkers to work inside the 1.2 million-square-foot facility with another 700 nearby, ramping up to nearly 3,000 over the next few years. The production of some 10,000 solar panels per day will put thousands of New Yorkers to work doing the installations. The panels will produce electricity cheaper, cleaner, more safely and more reliably than any fossil or nuclear source of power, including fracked gas, thus fueling a bright industrial future for the state. With a little common sense from the governor, upstate New York could have many more of these massive factories, create many thousands of good, stable, high-paying jobs and solve its energy problems along the way.
By Nicole Gallucci for Mashable – With the Trump administration targeting various government clean energy programs, we can think of no better time to celebrate the U.S. cities with the most installed solar energy. A new report found the country has made some serious solar strides in 2016, particularly in 20 cities across the country. America’s “shining cities” helped the country attain 42,000 megawatts of solar energy capacity by the end of 2016 — enough energy to power 8.3 million average homes and slash annual carbon emissions by 52.3 million metric tons, the Frontier Group and the Environment America Research and Policy Center reported. Last year, the 20 top U.S. cities collectively accounted for nearly as much solar power as the entire country had installed at the end of 2010. Solar power is rising across the U.S. and around the world as technology prices and installation costs plummet.
By Brian Slodysko for Daily Journal – INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana’s energy utilities want state lawmakers to pass a law that critics say would muscle out smaller companies from the emerging solar energy market. Solar power provides only about 1 percent of the country’s energy, but it is growing rapidly, with U.S. Energy Department figures showing solar industry employment grew 125 percent since 2010. Much of the growth has come from homeowners or businesses taking advantage of its bill-lowering potential. That could eventually eat away at the business of the big utilities — in Indiana, Duke Energy, Vectren and Indiana Michigan Power — which have a powerful voice and donate handsomely to political campaigns. Indiana legislators started debate Thursday on a proposed law that in five years would eliminate much of the financial benefit Indiana homeowners, businesses, schools and even some churches reap harvesting the sun’s rays.
By Lorraine Chow for Eco Watch – “This report verifies the dynamic role that our energy technologies and infrastructure play in a 21st century economy,” said DOE Senior Advisor on Industrial and Economic Policy David Foster. “Whether producing natural gas or solar power at increasingly lower prices or reducing our consumption of energy through smart grids and fuel efficient vehicles, energy innovation is proving itself as the important driver of economic growth in America, producing 14 percent of the new jobs in 2016.” The solar industry is particularly shining bright. “Proportionally, solar employment accounts for the largest share of workers in the Electric Power Generation sector,” the report, released on Jan. 13, states.
By Tom Randall for Bloomberg – A transformation is happening in global energy markets that’s worth noting as 2016 comes to an end: Solar power, for the first time, is becoming the cheapest form of new electricity. This has happened in isolated projects in the past: an especially competitive auction in the Middle East, for example, resulting in record-cheap solar costs. But now unsubsidized solar is beginning to outcompete coal and natural gas on a larger scale, and notably, new solar projects in emerging markets are costing less to build than wind projects, according to fresh data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The chart below shows the average cost of new wind and solar from 58 emerging-market economies, including China, India, and Brazil.
By Staff of Eco Watch – Actor Mark Ruffalo and Native Renewables founder Wahleah Johns presented Standing Rock Sioux tribal elders with mobile solar panels on trailers, bringing clean power to the protest encampment where the largest gathering of Native Americans in modern history is taking a stand against the Dakota Access Pipeline. “This pipeline is a black snake that traverses four states and 200 waterways with fracked Bakken oil,” said Ruffalo, co-founder of The Solutions Project, which works to accelerate the transition to 100 percent clean and renewable energy.
By Fred Grimm for Miami Herald – The leaked recording should have been political dynamite. Except it only confirmed what solar energy advocates already knew: Florida’s electric utility monopolies had engineered a ballot initiative composed of mendacious doublespeak. Amendment One, an unseemly misnomer entitled “Rights of Electricity Consumers Regarding Solar Energy Choice,” was no more than “political jiu-jitsu,”…
By Amanda Froelich for AJ+ – The Israel-Palestine conflict has resulted in 90% of the water in Gaza being rendered undrinkable. An obvious travesty, one man decided to develop a DIY solar desalination system capable of turning undrinkable water into purified H20 – and succeeded! Fayez al-Hindi’s invention may save lives, considering that Gaza is expected to run out of drinkable water within the next few months.
By Jeremy Brecher for Dollars & Sense. A series of reports by the Labor Network for Sustainability (LNS), and partners provides good news: The U.S. can meet the targets for greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction that climate scientists say are necessary while also creating half-a-million jobs annually and reducing the cost of energy to consumers. The reports, gathered in the LNS Climate, Jobs, and Justice Project, also show that protecting the climate in a way that maximizes the benefit for working people and discriminated-against groups will take deliberate public policies and action by unions and their social movement allies. The Clean Energy Future will create a substantial number of new jobs. The increase in jobs created, compared to the business-as-usual scenario, will start around 200,000 per year in 2016–2020 and rise to 800,000 a year in 2046–2050. The average job gain compared to business-as-usual scenario is 550,000 per year for the entire period.
By Jeremy Corbyn for Counter Punch – In 2015 the world came together to agree the landmark Paris Climate Agreement aimed at keeping global temperature rises to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels. And just in time: we are facing a climate crisis. 2016 is set to be the hottest year on record and greenhouse gas emissions globally are still not falling. We are seeing the impacts of climate change much earlier than anyone predicted – around the world and at home.
By Bob Berwyn for Inside Climate News – After proposing higher fixed charges, Colorado’s biggest electricity utility worked with solar advocates on a compromise, following deals in other states. Colorado’s largest electricity provider, Xcel Energy, reached a rate settlement that will pay homeowners with rooftop solar systems a premium price for power they produce when demand is highest. The deal still needs approval from the state’s Public Utilities Commission, but it came after widespread opposition to its previously proposed fixed charges that many said would stifle growth of rooftop solar systems.
By Zahra Hirji for Inside Climate News. California cities are leading the nation in eliminating one of the biggest hurdles to the growth of residential solar: lengthy and confusing permitting. Spurred by a recent state law, hundreds of California communities have streamlined their permit process for small residential solar systems over the past year, some bringing it down to a single day. Some cities have also fast-tracked inspections to within a few days of permit approvals. The outcome? The state’s biggest cities are now processing and signing off on hundreds of these solar projects each month. San Jose, for example, streamlined its permit review and approval process last August and has since approved more than 4,500 residential rooftop solar permits. That’s a nearly 600 percent increase over the previous year, when San Jose, California’s third-largest city, permitted a mere 661.
By John Rogers for USCUSA – A new report looks at what utilities can do to “bring solar within reach” for a broader swath of U.S. households, particularly in lower-income areas and communities of color. The answer: a lot. Solar for All is a product of the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC), thePartnership for Southern Equity, and the South Carolina Association for Community Economic Development, and is supported by more than a dozen other state and regional organizations.