‘Plug and Play’ Solar Finds Markets in Nebraska and Ohio FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Midwest Energy News:Utility customers in Ohio and Nebraska are among those taking advantage of a new and simpler technique for connecting solar arrays and other renewable energy systems to the grid.ConnectDER, as it’s known, generally eliminates the need to enter a home and it greatly reduces the amount of electrical work required.“It allows you to inject the solar on the customer side of the meter prior to getting into the home,” said Michael Shonka, a solar installer who has put the new equipment in a half-dozen homes in the Omaha area. “This means we can cut out $1,000 to $2,000 worth of cost in the system because you don’t need electricians to go through foundations trying to get to the service panel, and you don’t need to rearrange the panel.”Some people know it as “plug and play” solar.The ConnectDER “collar” plugs into the meter socket, typically on the outside of the house, and then the meter plugs into the ConnectDER, meaning that the solar panels’ inverter connects directly with the meter without having to go through the household service panel.In Nebraska, the Omaha Public Power District approved the equipment this past summer, and the Lincoln Electric System is now evaluating it. In Ohio, utilities in Tipp City, Yellow Springs and Westerville permit the new technology, as do about a dozen other utilities from Vermont to California and Hawaii.Shonka said he is “always looking for innovations in the industry,” and heard about ConnectDER at an industry meeting.“I recognized this as being a problem because every time I went to do an installation, I ran into issues with how to make the electrical connection.” The last few feet of wiring, he said, “are very expensive. You have to get through foundations, run wire in conduit through the inside of the house, rearrange the circuit-breaker box.”Marketing the product is time-consuming, said ConnectDER’s product manager, Jon Knauer, because, “Each new market that we want to sell it into requires utility approval. Over time that gets easier, because once we have a couple utilities sign off, the others tend to follow along. We’re still in the phase of opening up new markets.”He’s hopeful that in the Midwest, with its numerous municipal utilities and rural electric cooperatives, the technology may spread more rapidly than in other regions.Smaller non-profit utilities “make decisions fairly quickly. The (Omaha Public Power District) approved it in a month or two, which isn’t very long. And there are a lot of statewide municipal or co-op associations that you can take the product to and say, ‘This group of utilities similar to you are doing this, and maybe you should think about doing the same.’”More: New connection technology is cutting cost of solar installation
EPA plan won’t change price advantage of gas over coal FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享The New York Times:America’s ailing coal industry was buoyed on Tuesday when the Environmental Protection Agency unveiled a proposal to relax pollution regulations on coal-fired power plants. President Trump traveled to West Virginia to tout the planned measure, telling supporters, “We’re putting our great coal miners back to work.”Yet the reality on the ground for the nation’s coal industry remains bleak. Even the Trump administration’s own numbers suggest that its latest proposal won’t reverse the sharp decline of coal power, which has been crushed by competition from cheaper natural gas and renewable energy over the past decade.More than 200 coal plants have shut down since 2010, and another 40 plants have announced they will close in the years ahead, with virtually no new coal plants being built today.At best, if finalized, the E.P.A.’s newest rollback could help a small number of those endangered coal plants stave off retirement for a bit longer, albeit at the expense of increased air pollution. But even in that scenario, the agency’s own analysis showed, coal power would still decline by 20 percent between now and 2030 and coal mining would drop by one-third. “This is like throwing a few snowballs into a blizzard,” said Tom Sanzillo, director of finance at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis. “You might see a plant here or a plant there that benefits from the new rules. But we’re talking about very minor changes compared with the significant gap between the cost of coal and the cost of natural gas.”More: Trump’s New Pollution Rules Still Won’t Save the Coal Industry
Tesla testing novel community storage initiative in Western Australia FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Ars Technica:A community storage pilot project using Tesla batteries went live this week in Western Australia, three months ahead of schedule. The 105KW/420KWh pooled storage will act as a sort of locker for excess power produced by homes with solar panels.The project is an unusual one because it pools battery capacity for homes with solar panels. It was funded by energy company Synergy and government-owned Western Power, which sought 52 customers with solar panels on their homes as participants. The 52 shares of the project were snapped up in two weeks, far more quickly than expected, which accelerated the project’s timeline.Participants will each be allotted 8kWh of storage, which they will “fill” with excess power created by their rooftop solar panels during the day. (This is in theory, of course. Solar-generated electricity can flow back onto the grid, but there’s no guarantee that the battery will be charged with solar-generated electrons.) In the evening, customers will “be able to draw electricity back from the PowerBank during peak time without having to outlay upfront costs for a behind-the-meter battery storage system,” says a press release from the government of Western Australia.The model is similar to that of community solar projects, which have become popular in the US. Rather than spend money on expensive solar panels (or batteries, in this case), homeowners can opt in to a collective project. A managing company will put up the upfront costs and collect payment in installations. The Western Australian community battery project will cost participants AUD$1 (USD$0.73) per day for 24 months, although the participants will be able to opt out of the program at any time. Still, if a customer would normally buy electricity from Western Power in the evening after the sun goes down, participating in a program like this should save them money.More: Tesla battery will power unusual community storage project in Western Australia
Polish power company Tauron takes small step into solar generation FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享PV Magazine:Polish power company and coal miner Tauron Polska Energia S.A. has launched a tender for engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) service contractors for a 3.1-5 MW solar park planned for Jaworzno, near Katowice in southern Poland, where the company is based.Tauron said the project is part of a new program to deploy ground-mounted PV plants on its unused sites. Interested EPCs have until September 13 to bid. No details of the terms of the contract or the identity of the energy offtaker were revealed in Tauron’s announcement of the tender.“The program is currently being prepared, including obtaining the necessary administrative licenses,” the company said. The miner plans to install projects at five decommissioned power plants and landfills.Tauron said solar parks will be built in Mysłowice, also near Katowice, and at Stalowa Wola, in southeastern Poland. The power company is planning to install around 300 MW of solar and 900 MW of wind power generation capacity by 2025.The company is Poland’s second largest electricity supplier, with 5.1 GW of installed generation capacity. Larger rival PGE also recently made its first steps into PV and has announced its first corporate power supply deal, for a 5 MW solar plant.Another Polish coal company and electricity provider, Zespół Elektrowni Pątnów-Adamów-Konin SA said in November it will deploy a large-scale PV plant at a depleted area of the extensive Adamów brown coal mine in Turek, in the center of Poland. That plant may be intended to replace generation capacity lost in January with the closure of the Adamów power station, a five-unit, coal-fired plant with a 600 MW capacity at the mine.More: Polish mining company to deploy solar on dead coal sites
S&P: First quarter U.S. coal production at lowest level since 1981 FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享S&P Global Market Intelligence ($):The shoulder season is typically a slow period for coal demand, but the second quarter of this year presents a triple threat of unusually high coal inventories and plunging electricity demand due to the COVID-19 recession along with low natural gas prices. Regional spot markets for natural gas also trended lower during March, with Chicago trading an average of 22 cents/MMBtu below Henry Hub at $1.58/MMBtu. TCO Pool and TETCO M3 averaged 33 cents below Henry Hub at $1.47/MMBtu. SoCal Border traded 17 cents/MMBtu below Henry Hub, at $1.62/MMBtu.Coal inventories rose 4.6% during January at a time when they are normally drawn down against competitive pricing to natural gas and higher winter demand in the Mid-South and Southeast. The U.S. Energy Information Administration, or EIA, estimated stockpiles at 134 million tons, an increase of 6 million tons over December 2019. With coal burn likely down in February and March, inventories may continue to grow, further slackening shoulder season coal demand. S&P Global Market Intelligence estimates normal levels at 108 million tons, indicating a 26 million ton surplus that will likely have shippers reducing to minimum takes during the second quarter.Powder River Basin coal prices have trended lower through the winter and into 2020, as backed up inventories increasingly grip the market. Moreover, competition is forecast to intensify over the next two years, limiting opportunities for upward movement in prices. S&P Global Market Intelligence projects long-haul PRB 8800 to remain below $13 per ton through 2023, when natural gas prices begin to rise. The comparatively flat price outlook reflects forecast demand that declines more rapidly than the region’s productive capacity. The economic distress of some PRB operators last year forced some shut-in production, but mines may need to be further idled to create conditions for price support going forward. S&P Global Market Intelligence has estimated that long-haul PRB demand is resilient to natural gas spot prices ranging from $2.85-3.00/MMBtu, but the current forward strip for natural gas is below this level even through the next two winter seasons, with regional forwards lower still.Bituminous producers face even greater domestic demand pressure, forcing them to rely increasingly on export and metallurgical coal markets to offset revenue losses from low steam demand. Recent price weakness suggests that export demand is weakening as well.…If forecast prices remain much below $50/ton, production of lower-rank bituminous coal will need fall further. S&P Global Market Intelligence projects that the combination of natural gas prices and coal retirements will pressure generation demand, with eastern coal demand falling by 60 million tons (21%) from 2019-2023. Demand is projected to remain essentially flat after 2023, with Illinois Basin the only bituminous region forecast to increase production.For the four weeks ending March 21, coal shipments fell to an average of 10.5 million tons, 19.8% below March 2019. Lower shipments reflect surplus inventories and natural gas prices that weakened further during March and show no immediate prospects for improving. Based on weekly production estimates, first quarter of 2020 production came in at 151 million tons, lower than at any time reported by the EIA since 1981.[Steve Piper]More: U.S. quarterly coal production sinks to 50-year low
Is it too early start waxing the skis for ski season? I’m not sure why, but I’m seriously itching for winter to be here. Don’t get me wrong, I love the summer. I love the fall. I’m looking forward to that transitional season too. But for some reason, I’ve had this recurring dream that I’m hip deep in backcountry powder eating a frozen granola bar and giggling. It’s almost enough for me to find a set of rollerblades and trekking poles and find the steepest hill in a desperate attempt to simulate the ski “stoke.” We’re a good four months out from seeing any snow in our region, so it’s probably too early to start checking the various weather channels and webcams for incoming snow storms. But here’s a little vid that might get you psyched for what winter could hold.
“I don’t go to humid places, use tents, sweat suits, heart rate monitors, GPS systems etc. I love the purity and simplicity of training hard on the trails and roads of home. As soon as this is compromised, I am compromising my reasons for staying in this sport for so long. It is not to say that these alternative preparations don’t work, they just wouldn’t work for me.”I love this quote from Deena Kastor, 2004 Olympic marathon bronze medalist. For me, it captures the essence of running, and the point that so many self-described “gear junkies” miss. Part of what draws so many of us to the sport is the simplicity of lacing up the sneaks and heading out the door. No need to drive to the slopes, reserve a court, or make sure the tires are pumped up. Running is just about the only sport in which one can be completely spontaneous and self-sufficient.Sure, it’s entertaining to download a profile of your latest epic run onto Facebook for all of your friends to see. And interesting, I guess, to compare the stats on your GPS to a race director’s promise of a certain mileage or amount of climbing in an event. Yes, I’ve been beaten by competitors who sleep in altitude tents. And I’ve heard of people training for Badwater by running in saunas or dragging tires up mountainous terrain. I know there’s some merit to paying attention to your heart rate monitor, but I’d rather just listen to my body.Like Deena points out, these training tools do work for a lot of athletes. And were I a professional, attempting to make a living and to support my family on race earnings, I would probably experiment with anything (legal) that might give me an edge. But I’m not, and for this reason, I choose to keep my running as pure and simple as possible. For me, there is no gadget or supplement that can replace good, hard work. There are no shortcuts, just the basic principles of training hard, eating a healthy diet, and getting enough rest. Period.Now ditch the gadgets and just get out there and run.
Some 90 percent of U.S. buildings have dark-colored roofs which, when exposed to full sun can increase in temperature by as much as 90 °F. A white roof typically increases temperatures only 10-25 °F above ambient air temperatures during the day. Pictured: The White Roof Project at work. Credit: Courtesy White Roof ProjectEarthTalk®E – The Environmental MagazineDear EarthTalk: I’ve heard that simply painting your roof white can reduce household electricity bills by 40 percent. Is this something any of us can do? — Susan Pierson, Sumter, SCYes anyone can do it—and the benefits can be significant, especially for those in warmer climates who expend a lot of energy keeping cool. But most of the world’s roofs, including on some 90 percent of buildings in the U.S., are dark-colored.Dark colored roofs absorb more heat from the sun’s rays than light colored ones, and as such get much hotter. A black roof exposed to full sun can increase in temperature by as much as 90 °F (50 °C), meaning the air conditioning inside has to work that much harder to compensate for the added heat load.But a white or reflective roof typically increases temperatures only 10-25 °F (5–14 °C) above ambient air temperatures during the day. This translates into a savings of up to 15 percent on air conditioning energy use over a year for a typical one-story residence, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The upshot of this energy savings is not only cost savings for the consumer—annual energy bill savings of 20-40 percent aren’t uncommon for single story homes in America’s Sun Belt—but also reduced air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions generated in the production of electricity.A white roof also helps keep buildings and houses without air conditioning cooler in the summer than they would otherwise be. And it also helps mitigate the “urban heat island effect” whereby a city can be 6-8 °F warmer than its surrounding areas on warm summer days.The non-profit White Roof Project promotes the concept across the U.S. and last year painted some 30 buildings, helping hundreds of families lower their energy bills in the process.“A white roof project is low cost, easy to implement, relieves stress on the power grid, cuts down on smog, and creates tangible change for individuals, our communities, and even globally,” reports the group, which is looking to expand its work across the country significantly in 2013 and expand internationally in 2014.The White Roof Projects gives away instructions (via a free downloadable “DIY Packet”) to help do-it-yourselfers paint their own roofs white without hiring a painter or roofer. All it takes is a few painting supplies, a couple of cans of highly reflective elastomeric white paint, and a plan for how to cover all relevant surfaces properly and safely. Those who would rather hire someone to do the ladder climbing and paint application can hire any local painter or roofer.While green roofs may be preferable from a strictly environmental perspective in that they contain plants that filter pollutants and reduce run-off, white roofs may indeed provide more overall environmental benefit for the cost of a couple of cans of special white paint. Indeed, painting the roof white might be the best energy efficiency improvement you can make to your building or house.CONTACTS: White Roof Project, www.whiteroofproject.org; DOE Cool Roof Fact Sheet, www1.eere.energy.gov/buildings/pdfs/cool_roof_fact_sheet.pdf.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.
Man, take a look at that can. There’s a lot of stuff going on with that can. There’s like, a bird hanging out in a monkey’s bouffant, all of which is tangled up in the hair of a Native American smoking…a turkey leg? His own hand? I’m not sure. There’s some celestial stuff going on in the fringes, and a hop bud, some hieroglyphic-like dudes standing on rock buttes…it’s complex. Much like the beer inside—the Smoking Mirror, a smoked porter made by Quest Brewing out of Greenville.I know what you’re thinking. Greenville probably isn’t the first town you think of when you think of “craft beer.” Asheville, Charlottesville, Harrisonburg, Richmond, Atlanta…most of us would rattle off a pretty extensive list of beer towns before we got to Greenville. But if this smoked porter is any indication, good things are brewing in this progressive city at the base of the long Blue Wall.The beer pours dark, with a faint tint of red around the tan head, and smells like cherries. You get that yin/yang from dark fruit when you take a sip—a balance of sweet and tart notes—but it’s washed away by the incredible roasted malt character. There is some smokiness here, which comes from the peated malt in the mash bill, and a spiciness that’s more akin to tobacco than any pepper. It’s sophisticated, dark, tasty.Quest Brewing itself is only a couple of years old, and named after its home city’s adventurous spirit. It’s a small brewery (25 barrels), but they’ve already managed to start distributing beyond Greenville and into North Carolina. Smoking Mirror is one of only four core beers, but Quest also has a robust limited release series available in their taproom. They’re even aging some of their stuff in barrels. Word on the street is there’s a bourbon barrel-aged version of Smoking Mirror. I’m thinking it’s worth a quest across the border to sample that particular brew in person.
The Long Way Back, By Jackson BuchmanHave you ever been lost in the woods? Sometimes it can take a while before you know you’re really lost. Then panic sets in when you can’t find the way out on your own.Many years ago, I was lost—not in the woods but in my own mind. I struggled with feelings of rejection and an inability to like myself. I made some bad decisions. Then, shortly after my 19th birthday, I found myself running through the woods. I wasn’t running for good health or recreation or participating in some outdoor activity. I was running for my life and scared out of my mind. Several jurisdictions of law enforcement were chasing me, including armed men, dogs, and a helicopter.I had been the subject of a sting operation in which I was set up selling guns to undercover police officers, and momentarily, I had slipped through their grasp. I remember that night clearly. After running for a long time, I had to stop for a minute and catch my breath. I remember bending over and putting my hands on my knees, looking around the woods and thinking, “What am I doing? How did I screw my life up so horribly?” I was scared. The darkness that surrounded those woods couldn’t compare to the darkness I felt inside.Yet that moment in those woods was also the first moment of clarity I had in some time. I finally saw how out of control my life had become. Law enforcement closed in on me, and I realized that this was the end of my life as I knew it. There was no looking forward to a picnic, a visit with my family, a date with a pretty girl. There was no tomorrow.The courts sentenced me to 13 years in prison, and I spent a portion of that in a maximum security facility. While there, I met men who would never see freedom. My own cellmate had 800 years for multiple counts of murder. When you spend time in prison, it’s not uncommon to re-live every day of freedom you can remember. Often my mind returned to simpler days of camping as a young boy and exploring the woods with friends and family. I longed for the peacefulness of the outdoors. Sometimes, when allowed to go outside for recreation, I would close my eyes and imagine myself walking through the woods. I could smell the pine, hear the wind in the trees, and feel the freedom of the wild woods.If I am honest, I really grew up in prison. The lessons I learned while serving my sentence are invaluable to me today: Don’t take my freedom for granted. The world doesn’t owe me anything. And there must be a God because there is no other explanation as to why I’m still alive.On a cold snowy day in January, I was released from prison after six long years. Snow was falling as I rode toward home outside of Richmond, Va. As .flakes fell over the city, everything looked new and clean. I had so many feelings going through my head. I was frightened that I couldn’t make it in this world. Part of me felt like I didn’t belong out here. But I was relieved to finally be out of prison. My expectations weren’t high; I simply didn’t want to return to prison, and I certainly didn’t want to get lost again.The first year out was difficult. It was a struggle to overcome a prison mentality. Fortunately, in that first year, I met the woman who would become my wife. Several years later we had a son.It’s been many years since that night in the woods, but those memories keep me from ever getting lost in my life like that. I’ve spent many years volunteering to help others who are lost, worked at a local rescue mission, and went back to school to get a master’s degree.When I finally returned to the woods—without being chased this time—I was hiking a trail at Pocahontas State Park. The memories of standing in the prison yard imagining the forest returned. Just as I had done so many times in prison, I closed my eyes and smelled the pine, listened to the wind in the trees, and felt tears rolling down my face as the sense of freedom overwhelmed me.These days, I spend much of my free time camping, hiking, and fishing in the Jefferson and George Washington National Forest. About ten years ago I took up fly fishing and have become very passionate about the sport. However, the outdoors is more than a sporting excursion. For me, it’s spiritual. In difficult times, it is a place to connect with myself and with God. I usually leave the woods with a clearer vision of life than when I entered.Whether I’m wading in a trout stream or hiking to a summit, there is this freedom I feel that I can’t experience anywhere else. It is therapeutic. It has helped me heal. It has shown me the way home.