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Renewables can challenge existing coal plants on price

Utility Dive | Posted on November 18, 2018

Average costs for wind and solar energy can undercut existing coal generation even without subsidies, according to analysis from the research firm Lazard.The latest version of Lazard's levelized cost of energy (LCOE) analysis finds that U.S. onshore wind energy costs average between $26/MWh and $56/MWh without subsidies, while utility-scale solar averages between $36/MWh and $44/MWh. That challenges the average cost for existing U.S. coal plants, which Lazard pegs between $27/MWh and $45/MWh. Factoring in federal subsidies for wind and solar, the renewable resources become even more competitive against coal and challenge nuclear and gas plants. The findings come on the heels of multiple utility announcements that they will replace coal and nuclear plants with renewable energy and natural gas.

California PUC chair says state won't let PG&E go bankrupt

Utility Dive | Posted on November 18, 2018

California's head utility regulator said Thursday he does not want utility Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) to go bankrupt over escalating costs related to California's record wildfire season, sending shares soaring in after-hours trading. California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) Chairman Michael Picker reportedly told financial analysts his agency would begin implementing a new state law that allows utilities to pass fire costs onto customers, while also expanding a probe into PG&E's corporate governance.Picker's announcement came after PG&E's power lines were linked to the ongoing Camp Fire in Northern California and PG&E withdrew all of its revolving credit lines, a move that can presage a bankruptcy filing. The utility's equipment was found responsible for 16 fires last year and this week its credit rating was downgraded by Moody's Investor Service and S&P.

Probe launched against PF & E after fires

Utility Dive | Posted on November 18, 2018

The California Public Utilities Commissions (CPUC) said Monday it has launched investigations into the regulatory compliance of electric facilities owned by Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) and Southern California Edison (SCE) related to three deadly fires. The investor-owned utilities (IOUs) had separately filed electric safety incident reports on Thursday, alerting regulators of problems with a PG&E transmission line around the source of Butte County's Camp Fire and with SCE transmission lines near ground zero of Ventura County's Hill Fire and Los Angeles County's Woolsey Fire. The CPUC and CalFire have not made official determinations on the causes of the fires.PG&E has incurred more than $2 billion in costs, net of insurance recoveries, related to wildfires so far this year, as its equipment was determined to be the cause of several deadly fires. SCE told the Securities and Exchange Commission it expects to incur losses based on the potential that its equipment started a deadly fire in 2017, and has been sued over its role in the blaze.

Clean energy platforms win at the state level as 7 governor seats shift blue

Utility Drive | Posted on November 18, 2018

Several Democratic candidates ran their campaigns on clean energy in stark contrast to their opponents, which observers say may have helped win them the election.Seven governor's races flipped blue: Maine, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Kansas, New Mexico and Nevada. The Alaska governor's seat was the only one to flip Republican, while Florida and Georgia are still pending final vote counts.Although issues such as healthcare and immigration remained the top items for many candidates, observers say some of the gubernatorial candidates' strong stances on clean energy policy may have helped win them the election.

Green Plains shuts plant, faces ethanol downturn

Reuters | Posted on November 17, 2018

Green Plains Inc, the nation’s fourth-largest ethanol producer, has permanently shuttered a Virginia production plant and cut output at several other facilities as it tries to navigate a supply glut that has pummeled biofuel profits. Green Plains announced that it was closing a plant in the town of Hopewell that had capacity to produce 60 million gallons annually. Thirty-one jobs will be cut, it said in a news release. With ethanol plants in Corn Belt states such as Iowa and Illinois struggling to make money, further-flung facilities have been under even more pressure as bringing in corn from far away boosts feedstock costs.

Turning human excrement into biofuel

| Posted on November 17, 2018

team of researchers from Israel’s Ben Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) has demonstrated, for the first time, a technique for converting human excrement into hydrochar—a safe, renewable biomass fuel that resembles charcoal—as well as a nutrient-rich fertilizer. According to the team, this process could potentially address two major issues that affect many less-affluent countries—poor sanitation and growing energy needs.In a pilot study published in the Journal of Cleaner Production, the researchers described how they used a technique known as “hydrothermal carbonization” to heat raw solid human waste in a special “pressure cooker” to three different temperatures (180, 210 and 240 degrees Celsius) for periods of either 30, 60 or 120 minutes.This sterilizes the human waste and dries it out, creating a solid coal-like substance known as hydrochar, which can be used for household cooking and heating. In addition, a nutrient-rich liquid is produced that could be used as a fertilizer. Last year, the BGU researchers carried out similar research using poultry excrement.

Lawsuit: Ohio wind setbacks were adopted in violation of state constitution

Energy News Network | Posted on November 15, 2018

A lawsuit filed this week over Ohio’s wind turbine setbacks centers on whether landowners, developers and others had a chance to be heard before the stricter terms were adopted as part of an eleventh-hour budget bill amendment in 2014.House Bill 483’s property line setbacks became part of a massive 2014 budget bill less than 24 hours before its passage by the Ohio Senate.Barely 10 minutes of discussion on the provisions took place on the Senate floor.That “tucked away” issue forms the basis for the plaintiffs’ constitutional challenge now. The relevant part of the Ohio Constitution says “[n]o bill shall contain more than one subject, which shall be clearly expressed in its title.”The parties suing the state allege that the law “is a classic example of ‘logrolling.’” That kind of horse-trading practice typically combines unrelated proposals to get support from lawmakers who might trade support for one part of the bill if another part includes something to their advantage.

Deepwater Horizon oil spill's dramatic effect on stingrays' sensory abilities

Science Daily | Posted on November 15, 2018

Marine fishes rely on their sensory systems to survive. A study is the first to quantify the physiological effects of whole crude oil on the olfactory function of a marine vertebrate -- the Atlantic stingray. Results of the study, confirm that exposure to crude oil, at concentrations mimicking those measured in coastal areas following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, significantly impaired olfactory function in the Atlantic stingray after just 48 hours of exposure.

Paulding County farmers, wind industry association sue state over restrictive wind setback law

Paulding Progress | Posted on November 15, 2018

A group of farmers in Paulding County has filed suit against the state of Ohio, alleging that the Ohio General Assembly violated the state constitution when it passed a dramatic increase in wind setback mandates. In a case joined by the wind industry, the farmers assert that the legislature passed the amendment in House Bill 483 in 2014 in a totally unrelated piece of legislation, which is in violation of the "single subject" rule. The legislature adopted the surprise mandate just before the bill's passage, without any opportunity for input from affected landowners. Plaintiffs are requesting that the court strike down the provision due to this egregious constitutional violation.The lawsuit was filed today, Nov. 12, in Paulding County Common Pleas Court.Prior to HB 483, the minimum wind turbine setback distance from a neighboring property line was “1.1 times the height of a turbine.” The minimum setback from a habitable structure was 1,125 feet measured from the tip of the turbine blade. HB 483 replaced the property line setback with the much longer statutory minimum habitable structure setback distance – 1,125 feet.Prior to enactment of HB 483, 12 commercial-scale wind farms were approved by the Ohio Power citing Board, but since the bill’s passage, there have been zero, according to the lawsuit. Every Ohio wind project under development has been abandoned or stalled. Meanwhile, private demand for wind energy has skyrocket, documents stated.The plaintiffs claim the current setbacks “will continue to harm development and deprive local landowners and communities of the substantial economic and environmental benefits of wind energy.”

Closure of coal-fired power plant bringing dramatic change to navajo nation

Daily Yonder | Posted on November 15, 2018

Navajo leaders are scrambling to find a new owner for the Navajo Generating Station, which pays better than any other job on the Navajo Nation. Hopi Tribe officials have asked the federal government to buy electricity from the plant to avoid a shutdown.