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Environment: Tuesday roundup

Independent journalism in western Colorado

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Big issues at the climate talks in Lima, Peru.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — If you primarily read this Summit Voice feed, which has been climate focused recently, you may have missed a few other recent stories I’ve done for the Colorado Independent. The past couple of weeks I’ve  covered issues in western Colorado, including fossil fuel development, public lands protection and even the ski industry from time to time, including this week’s story about a Colorado Supreme Court case. Continue reading

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Report: Hybrid energy systems, smart grid planning needed to boost renewables

Going solar ...

Going solar …

Matched solar and wind systems could ensure steady supply of renewable energy

Staff Report

FRISCO — Smart grid planning and better energy storage could significantly boost the use of renewable energy in the U.S. according to a new report that calls for developing “hybrid” systems in which, on a broad geographic scale, one form of renewable energy is ramping up even while the other is declining.

Historically, a major drawback to the use and cost-effectiveness of alternative energy systems has been that they are too variable – if the wind doesn’t blow or the sun doesn’t shine, a completely different energy system has to be available to pick up the slack. Continue reading

Native Americans eye huge South Dakota wind energy project

A map from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory shows areas with the potential for windpower and the associated transmission grid.

A map from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory shows areas with the potential for windpower and the associated transmission grid.

Sioux Nation wants to focus on renewable energy, not dirty tar sands oil

Staff Report

FRISCO — Just a few days after responding angrily to the U.S. House vote to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline, Sioux Nation Native American leaders met with the Obama administration to explore renewable energy options.

The meeting included representatives from more than eight federal agencies and offices, including representatives from the Departments of Agriculture, Interior, Treasury, and Tribal Relations. Continue reading

Global hydropower boom poses biodiversity risks

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Hoover Dam.

New database to help assess impacts of planned dams

Staff Report

FRISCO — An emergent global hydropower boom will help meet the demand for low-carbon energy, but also poses environmental risks, according to experts compiling a new data base on global hydropower.

The boom is expected to double production of hydropower, but could also reduce  the number of our last remaining large free-flowing rivers by about 20 percent and pose a serious threat to freshwater biodiversity.

A new database has been developed to support decision making on sustainable modes of electricity production. An unprecedented number of dams for electricity production is currently under construction or planned worldwide, mainly in developing countries and emerging economies in South America, Southeast Asia and Africa, that also hold some of the world’s most important sites for freshwater biodiversity.  Continue reading

Let’s do offshore wind power the right way!

‘It is essential to identify where whales, dolphins and other species occur to help avoid adverse impacts and to continue to monitor their response to the construction and operation of wind turbines’

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Offshore wind turbines could provide most of the power for North American cities.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Many of the conflicts between energy development and wildlife protection developed because there wasn’t enough upfront planning. Researchers with the University of Maryland say similar issues relating to offshore wind energy can be minimized with early monitoring.

“As the number and size of offshore wind developments increases, there is a growing need to consider the consequences and cumulative impacts of these activities on marine species,” said Helen Bailey, lead author and research assistant professor at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s Chesapeake Biological Laboratory.

“It is essential to identify where whales, dolphins and other species occur to help avoid adverse impacts and to continue to monitor their response to the construction and operation of wind turbines,” Bailey said. Continue reading

Congress grapples with wind power tax credit extension

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More wrangling over renewable energy, as coal barons pull out all the stops

Fossil fuel barons are sensing the end of their era, and pulling out all the stops to squeeze a few more years of profit from their toxic activities

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Fossil fuel companies pulled out all the stops this week, cashing in their lobbying chips to corral the U.S. Senate into stalling a bill that would have extended for the wind production and investment tax credits.

A small group of senators who are deep in the pockets of the fossil fuel industry used a procedural vote to block a full Senate vote, eliciting a frustrated response from Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO).

“This is yet another example of Washington not doing the work that Coloradans and the American people expect us to do,” Bennet said. “This tax extenders bill was approved by the Senate Finance Committee with strong bipartisan support. Coloradans and the American people deserve better.

“The wind tax credit is an economic driver for Colorado’s diverse energy industry. It supports thousands of jobs up and down the supply chain. Delaying this extension risks the same type of economic damage we experienced that last time the credit was allowed to expire,” he said.

Colorado generates the sixth highest percentage of power from wind of any state in the nation. It is home to several major wind energy developers and wind turbine manufacturing facilities, employing upwards of 5,000 workers statewide. Nationally, a permanent expiration of the wind production tax credit could cost as many as 37,000 jobs, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

The political maneuvering came the same day that German officials announced that the country set a new renewable energy record, with wind and solar generating enough power to meet 74 percent of the demand on Sunday, May 11.

 

Big comeback for renewable energy stocks in 2013

Public market investors bullish on wind and solar

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Renewable sources accounted for 43 percent of all newly installed energy capacity in 2013, according to a new report from UN economists.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Renewable energy stocks made a big global comeback in 2013, gaining 54 percent after a 4.5 year slide during which they lost 78 percent in value, according to a new report released by economists in Frankfurt, Germany.

The improvement happened as many companies in the solar and wind manufacturing chains moved back towards profitability after a painful period of over-capacity and corporate distress, according to experts with the United Nations Environmental Program.

The 2013 improvements came despite a significant dip in investments in the renewable energy sector — the investment drop of $US35.1 billion was partly down to the falling cost of solar photovoltaic systems. The other main cause was policy uncertainty in many countries, an issue that also depressed investment in fossil fuel generation in 2013. Continue reading

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