Climate Deniers Uncovered

A paper published by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), “The Climate Deception Dossiers,” reveals decades of corporate misinformation campaigns by the fossil fuel industry. The paper focuses on seven deception dossiers, or collections containing nearly 85 internal company and trade association documents that have either been leaked to the public, come to light through lawsuits, or been disclosed through Freedom of Information Act requests.

gw-cover-climate-deception-dossiersThe authors say that many call climate change a hoax, including U.S. Senator James Inhofe who is now chair of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. However, write the authors, the biggest climate hoax is continuing today and that is, “…the decades long campaign by a handful of the world’s largest fossil fuel companies – such as Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and Peabody Energy – to deceive the American public by distorting the realities and risks of climate change, something acting directly and sometimes acting indirectly through trade associations and front groups.”

The authors continue that that deception dossiers tell an undeniable truth, “…that for nearly three decades, major fossil fuel companies have knowingly worked to distort climate science findings, deceive the public, and block policies designed to hasten our needed transition to a clean energy economy.

So what do we learn?

  • Fossil Fuel companies have intentionally spread climate disinformation for decades.
  • Fossil fuel company leaders knew that their products were harmful to people and the planet but still chose to actively deceive the public and deny this harm.
  • The campaign of deception continues today.

The authors write that while many fossil fuel companies acknowledge the main findings of climate science, some still continue to support groups that spread misinformation about climate science and policy. Some of these front groups include: Heartland Institute, Americans for Prosperity, and the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow. The authors say these groups, along with industry trade associations such as American Petroleum Institute (API), American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE). The fossil fuel industry also uses a host of fake grassroots organizations such as Fed Up at the Pump and Oregonians for Sound Fuel Policy to fight against legislation such as the Clean Power Plan and the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Continue reading

Block Island Wind Farm Has Steel in Water

The American wind energy industry along with Rhode Island state legislators and others celebrated what Deepwater Wind is calling a “historic moment” for the offshore wind industry as the first “steel in the water” milestone was met this week for the Block Island Wind Farm. This marks the installation of the first offshore wind farm foundation component – a 400-ton steel jacket on the sea floor – by Weeks Marine and Mason Construction. The site is located roughly three miles off the Block Island coast.

On hand for the ceremony were Rhode Island Governor Gina M. Raimondo, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Director Abigail Ross Hopper, the state’s Congressional delegation, and more than a hundred other elected officials, leaders of national environmental advocacy organizations, federal and state regulators, Block Islanders and project supporters to celebrate the milestone where guests took a ferry tour of the offshore construction site.

Block-Island-RI-Google-300x190

Block Island – Photo Credit: Coastal News Today

“Rhode Island is proud to be home to the nation’s first offshore wind farm – a great opportunity for our state to stake out real leadership in this growing industry,” said Rhode Island Governor Gina M. Raimondo. “Not only are we going to create over 300 good-paying jobs, but we’re going to rebrand ourselves as being more innovative and, over time, make Rhode Island a place that has a more diversified energy supply and greener energy. I’m committed to supporting this progress with a comprehensive jobs plan focused on making it easier to do business in Rhode Island and making sure we are training the workforce today to support the innovations of tomorrow.”

Deepwater Wind CEO Jeffrey Grybowski noted, “We know the world is watching closely what we do here, and we’re incredibly proud to be at the forefront of a new American clean-tech industry launching right here in the Ocean State. This moment has been years in the making – and it’s just the start of something very big.” When complete, the offshore wind farm will generate 30 MW.

Construction is set for an eight-week period this summer and more than a dozen construction and transport barges, tugboats, crew ships and monitoring vessels will be active at the offshore construction site. In addition, vessel and crane operators, engineers, welders, scientists, protected species observers and dozens of others are all involved with this momentous operation.

“Weeks Marine and Manson Construction are enthused to assist with this challenging project and excited for the future opportunity it promises,” said Rick Palmer, Project Director for Weeks/Manson, a joint venture leading the installation work. “We commend Deepwater Wind for their diligent efforts that have led to this milestone achievement.” Continue reading

Energy Policy Modernization Act Intro’d

U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-Alas) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash) have introduced legislation entitled “The Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015,” a bipartisan bill designed to increase the use of renewable energy in the U.S. Karl Gladwell, executive director of the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA) noted that the legislation would help America achieve its geothermal potential, “by addressing some of the most important barriers to geothermal development in the U.S.”

Photo Credit: Geothermal Technologies Office

Photo Credit: Geothermal Technologies Office

The legislation features five titles reflecting common ground on energy efficiency, infrastructure, supply, accountability, and land conservation. In the supply title, it includes several provisions supporting geothermal energy. It would:

  • set a 50,000-MW National Geothermal Goal;
  • direct federal agencies to identify priority areas for development;
    •allow federal oil and gas lease holders to obtain a non-competitive geothermal lease to facilitate coproduction of geothermal power — today 25 billion barrels of hot water are produced annually from oil and gas wells within the United States;
  • facilitate new discoveries by allowing the limited non-competitive leasing of adjacent lands where a new discovery has been made; and
  • provide geothermal exploration test projects a limited categorical exclusion provided the lands involved present no extraordinary circumstances.

“Our energy renaissance has taken us from a position of energy scarcity to one of energy abundance, but current law rarely reflects that fact. After months of working together, the bipartisan legislation we introduced today marks a critical step toward the modernization of our federal energy policies. By focusing on areas where agreement was possible, we have assembled a robust bill with priorities from many senators that will promote our economic growth, national security, and global competitiveness,” Chairman Murkowski said in a press statement.

The Senators cite that the end result will be more affordable energy, more abundant energy, and more functional energy systems that will strengthen and sustain our energy nation’s renaissance. The bipartisan Energy Policy Modernization Act will also achieve these goals in a fiscally-responsible manner.

Earlier this week the Senate Finance Committee voted 23-3 in support of legislation sponsored by Sens. Hatch, R-Utah, and Wyden, D-Ore., to extend the expired Production Tax Credit for geothermal power plants that start construction by December 31, 2016.  The Murkowski-Cantwell legislation builds upon legislative proposals introduced previously by Sens. Heller, R-Nev., Wyden, D-Ore., and Tester, D-Mont., along with several co-sponsors. The bill now awaits the Committee’s markup, expected next Tuesday.

PG&E Donates Solar to Habitat Homes

Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) has donated $1 million to support the installation of rooftop solar on 79 homes with 18 different Habitat for Humanity local affiliates throughout Northern and Central California. The company said its Solar Habitat Program, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity, is making affordable housing and solar energy a reality for deserving families, particularly in neighborhoods that have been historically underserved and overlooked.

PG&E is proud to support Habitat for Humanity’s mission of making homeownership a reality for deserving families. Our sustained collaboration on the Solar Habitat Program allows these homes to be both financially and environmentally sustainable. Together, we’re building a cleaner, brighter future for the people of California,” said PG&E Corporation Chairman, CEO and President Tony Earley.

PG&E employee volunteers help to put in landscaping on a Habitat home equipped with solar panels in San Luis Obispo, Calif.

PG&E employee volunteers help to put in landscaping on a Habitat home equipped with solar panels in San Luis Obispo, Calif.

The company has been supporting the housing program for more than 10 years. Today, they are the exclusive solar partner for Habitat for Humanity and to date, more than 660 new homes have been built with solar energy.

“Thanks to our partnership with PG&E and the Solar Habitat program, Habitat homeowners spend less on electricity and that helps us keep the overall cost of homeownership low. This is a critical piece of the overall affordability of Habitat homes,” said Phillip Kilbridge, CEO of Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco.

The PG&E’s said their Solar Habitat program lowers the electricity bill of an average household by $500 per year. Each solar panel generates nearly 300 kilowatt-hours of clean, renewable energy from sunlight per month, avoiding the release of more than 132,000 pounds of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere over the 30-year life of the system. In total, Habitat families have saved $9 million in energy costs through this partnership.

Earlier this year, the company and the non-profit celebrated their decade-long solar partnership by hosting the Brown Bag Build at Justin Herman Plaza in San Francisco. Community members contributed over 200 volunteer hours to Habitat for Humanity to safely construct 60 doors and window frames in 30-minute shifts during their lunch breaks for the Habitat Terrace development in San Francisco’s Ocean View neighborhood.

Geothermal Industry Calls for Tax Extender Credits

The geothermal industry is happy with the news that the Senate Finance Committee voted for a package of tax extenders proposed by Chairman Orin Hatch (R-UT) and Ranking Democrat Ron Wyden (D-OR). The package includes provisions extending the Production Tax Credit (PTC) for new geothermal power facilities that “start construction” by the end of 2016. Developers retain the option of converting the PTC to a 30 percent investment tax GEA logocredit. The PTC expired at the end of 2014, although it was extended in December 2015 for a two-week period that was far too short to benefit geothermal projects according to Karl Gawell, executive director of the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA).

“This is important news for geothermal developers,” said Gawell. “It will help spur the market for new geothermal power plants which has been suffering due to slack demand and uneven tax treatment,” he said.

The Committee voted 23-3 in support of the package, with strong majorities of both Republican and Democratic Members supporting the bill. The tax extenders bill, entitled “An Original Bill to Extend Certain Expired Tax Provisions,” now moves to the Senate floor.

“The strong bi-partisan support in Committee is a good sign for the future of the Senate Tax Extenders Bill,” Gawell noted.

Nature Conservancy Looks to Bird Friendly Wind

The Nature Conservancy has installed the first phase of a bird friendly wind power project. The project is taking place in Palmyra, a national wildlife refuge located in Hawaii, where more than a million nesting seabirds call home. With low wind speeds, traditional wind turbines would have low output, plus, says the Conservancy, conventional wind turbines pose a risk of bird strikes. Thus, the group selected INVELOX, a funnel-based wind power technology developed by SheerWind.

Nature Conservancy/ U.S. Fish Wildlife's Palmyra Atoll by A. Purves (PRNewsFoto/SheerWind)

Nature Conservancy/ U.S. Fish Wildlife's Palmyra Atoll by A. Purves (PRNewsFoto/SheerWind)

The custom system is designed to mirror an hourglass laying on its side. Extending 83 feet horizontally with a big wind scoop at one end, an exhaust on the other, a Venturi section in the middle increases wind speed potentially three to six times. Nets over the intake and enclosed blades keep it bird friendly. The first phase of the installation includes a single turbine inside the Venturi, allowing for two additional to be installed.

The first phase of the INVELOX project is successfully charging batteries at night, says The Nature Conservancy, and on cloudy days to supplement the photovoltaic system also installed on Palmyra.

INVELOX on Palmyra Atoll by Cindy Coker (PRNewsFoto/SheerWind)

INVELOX on Palmyra Atoll by Cindy Coker (PRNewsFoto/SheerWind)

“With a goal to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, SheerWind’s INVELOX was the only viable solution for the multiple restrictions including height, wind speeds, and of course bird populations. This solution works and helped bring the goal to reduce fossil fuel use a reality,” said The Nature Conservancy’s David Sellers, who is the driving force behind the design solution and details of the INVELOX installation.

Palmyra Atoll is located 1,000 miles south of Hawaii in the vast equatorial Pacific, and hosts spectacular coral reef and tropical island ecosystems, but is a challenge for humans to inhabit. There are no commercial flights to this remote outpost, which is co-owned and managed as a scientific research station and national wildlife refuge by The Nature Conservancy and The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Until the recent installation of wind and solar, Palmyra was run on diesel fuel generators. These installations reduced its dependence on fossil fuels by 95 percent according to The Nature Conservancy.

“We are grateful for David Sellers and The Nature Conservancy’s commitment to installing the first commercial system in an extremely challenging location. We are pleased we were able to contribute to this important achievement and hope this is an example to be duplicated globally,” added Dr. Daryoush Allaei, founder and CTO of SheerWind.

U.S. Senate Votes to Extend Federal Tax Credits

The U.S. Senate Finance Committee has voted 23-3 to extend over 50 tax policies through 2016, including the renewable energy Production Tax Credit (PTC) and Investment Tax Credit (ITC) that helps to encourage the development of more renewable energy projects including wind. To qualify for the credits, construction of a product must begin while the tax programs are in place.

The credits has expired at the start of this year, and according to Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), the action threw “the future of American wind energy into doubt once projects currently under construction are completed”.

© Hongtao926 | Dreamstime.com - Wind Turbines Photo

© Hongtao926 | Dreamstime.com – Wind Turbines Photo

“This is a big step in the right direction,” said Kiernan. “We applaud the committee’s vote because it recognizes that the vast majority of American voters support these policies and want them continued. We urge the full Senate and the House of Representatives to follow the Senate Finance Committee’s bipartisan lead, and quickly pass this tax extenders package, which will continue to grow American jobs and heavy manufacturing, and support rural economic growth.”

Kiernan said the federal PTC and ITC are predominant drivers of new wind farm development, and have helped lower the cost of American wind power by more than half over the last five years, while making the U.S. number one in the world in wind energy production.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) in the hearing regularly acknowledged the strong sense of bipartisan support for renewing the tax extenders package. Sens. Pat Toomey (R-PA), Dan Coats (R-IN), and Rob Portman (R-OH) withdrew amendments opposing the PTC, while Sen. Michael Bennett (D-CO) made the senators aware of the tremendous amounts of economic benefits and jobs wind power has created in Colorado. Continue reading

Mid-Year Renewable Energy Check-Up

Heading in to the second half of 2015, renewable energy accounted for nearly 70 percent of new electrical generation for the firs six months as reported by the latest “Energy Infrastructure Update” report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) Office of Energy Projects. The report finds wind accounts for more than half (50.64%) of the 1,969 MW of new installed capacity. Solar accounted for 549 MW, bimomass with 128 MW, geothermal with 45 MW and hydropower with 21 MW. The rest of the new capacity was added using natural gas (1,173 MW).

© Metalmaster | Dreamstime.com - Solar Panels Photo

© Metalmaster | Dreamstime.com – Solar Panels Photo

FERC reported no new capacity for the year-to-date from oil or nuclear power and just 3 MW from one unit of coal. Thus, as calculated by the SUN DAY Campaign, new capacity from renewable energy sources during the first half of 2015 is 904 times greater than that from coal and more than double that from natural gas. For June alone, wind (320 MW), biomass (95 MW), and solar (62 MW) provided 97 percent of new capacity with natural gas providing the balance (15 MW).

Renewable energy sources now account for 17.27 percent of total installed operating generating capacity in the U.S.: water – 8.61 percent, wind – 5.84 percent, biomass – 1.40 percent, solar – 1.08 percent, and geothermal steam – 0.34 percent (for comparison, renewables were 16.28 percent of capacity in June 2014 and 15.81% in June 2013).

Renewable electrical capacity is now greater than that of nuclear (9.20%) and oil (3.87%) combined. In fact, the installed capacity of wind power alone has now surpassed that of oil. On the other hand, sources the SUN DAY Campaign, generating capacity from coal has declined from 28.96 percent in mid-2013 to 26.83 percent today.

“With Congress now debating whether to extend the federal tax incentives for renewable energy sources, it is reasonable to ask whether the American public has gotten a good return on these investments to date,” noted Ken Bossong, executive eirector of the SUN DAY Campaign. “The latest FERC data confirms that the answer is a resounding ‘Yes!’.”

Canadian Solar Connects 3 Japanese Solar Projects

Canadian Solar has grid connected three solar photovoltaic (PV) power plants in Japan with a total of approximately 5.2 MWp.

Canadian Solar logoThe 2.2 MWp Tsukuba Stones Solar Power Plant was connected to the grid on June 26, 2015. Powered by 8,448 Canadian Solar CS6P-260P modules, it will generate approximately 2,474 MWh of clean, emission-less solar electricity every year and the electricity generated from this project will be purchased by Tokyo Electric Power Co., Ltd. under a 20 year feed-in-tariff contract at the rate of JPY40.00 ($0.33) per kWh.

The 2.0 MWp Tomigaoka Solar Power Plant was connected to the grid on June 29, 2015.  Powered by 7,920 Canadian Solar CS6P-255P modules, it will generate approximately 2,415 MWh of clean, emission-less solar electricity every year and the electricity generated from the project will be purchased by Kyushu Electric Power Co., Inc. under a 20 year feed-in-tariff contract at the rate of JPY36.00 ($0.30) per kWh.

The 1.0 MWp Isa City Solar Power Plant was connected to the grid on June 9, 2015. Powered by 3,654 Canadian Solar CS6P-255P modules, it will generate approximately 1,175 MWh of clean, emission-less solar electricity every year and the electricity generated from the project will also be purchased by Kyushu Electric Power Co., Inc. under a 20 year feed-in-tariff contract at the rate of JPY40.00 ($0.30) per kWh.

“We are very pleased to announce the successful completion and grid connection of these three projects, which well demonstrates the execution ability of our local project development and EPC teams in Japan,” said Dr. Shawn Qu, Chairman and CEO of Canadian Solar Inc., “We are well on track to complete more projects in the quarters ahead in this important market that is expected to make an important contribution to our planned YieldCo.”

HydroPower Opportunities Abound in Oregon

HydroVision took place this week in Oregon and during the event, Voith Hydro President and CEO Bob Gallo said that the state provides, “the perfect setting to shine a light on the value of hydropower”. The company has an office in Springfield, Oregon in addition to offices in several other states.

“Oregon is the perfect showcase for hydropower’s past, as well as its future potential,” said Gallo. “Though hydropower accounts for over 50% of Oregon’s power generation, the state has the capacity to double the clean and renewable hydropower it already provides to power its homes and businesses. With the right policies in place, we can truly unleash hydropower’s vast untapped potential, and Voith Hydro has the environmentally-friendly hydropower equipment and technology to power the future.”

Francis-Turbine for the hydro power plant Bratsk, Siberia. Awarded picture of the year and product image of the year at the German "PR Bild Award 2014".

Francis-Turbine for the hydro power plant Bratsk, Siberia.
Awarded picture of the year and product image of the year at the German “PR Bild Award 2014″.

Hydroelectric power provides Oregon with half of the state’s power. According to a 2014 Department of Energy New Stream-reach Development report, Oregon could more than double its current 8,000 MW in installed capacity and its potential, finds the report, is greater than any other state. The potential capacity is part of 65,000 MW of available but untapped hydropower across the country.

The same report said the U.S. can develop this potential by powering many of the approximately 80,000 dams that currently do not produce hydroelectric power and spread up the process to hydropower by streamlining an often burdensome and timely licensing process. Congress is currently attempting to build on 2013 legislation that streamlined the process for many small hydropower projects by exploring further regulatory reforms that will reduce inefficiencies and redundancies in the licensing process for projects both large and small. The need, agress Gallo, for timely reform is important given that 250 projects representing 11,000 MW of installed capacity are up for relicensing over the next 10 years.

While hydropower’s direct environmental benefits are immense, explained Gallo, its other attributes are significant. It supports the development of other renewables through baseload power generation, provides for flood control, creates recreational opportunities, and supports irrigation projects. It also creates jobs. By one estimate, with the proper policies in place, hydropower could create 1.4 million cumulative jobs by 2025, on top of the 300,000 jobs already supported by American hydropower.

“Hydropower is a win-win for both the environment and the economy,” Gallo concluded. “Voith Hydro looks forward to continued progress to bring more of America’s largest renewable resource online.”