U.S. Offshore Wind Auction Breaks Record With $405 Million in New Leases
The U.S. government just smashed its own records when an auction on Friday to lease thousands of acres off the Massachusetts coast for offshore wind development brought in a whopping $405.1 million, signaling that this particular renewable energy sector is finally taking off at high speeds, Utility Drive reported.
If fully developed, the leased area could generate 4.1 gigawatts of commercial energy, enough to power 1.5 million homes, the Department of Interior (DOI) said in a press release. The auction was run by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), part of the DOI. Even former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, whose energy policies have generally favored fossil fuels, expressed excitement in one of his last statements before resigning Saturday.
"To anyone who doubted that our ambitious vision for energy dominance would not include renewables, today we put that rumor to rest," Zinke said in the press release. "With bold leadership, faster, streamlined environmental reviews, and a lot of hard work with our states and fishermen, we've given the wind industry the confidence to think and bid big."
BIDDING BONANZA! Trump Administration Smashes Record for #OffshoreWind Auction with $405 Million in Winning Bids -… https://t.co/HVTBtkEEfC— BOEM (@BOEM)1544832163.0
In addition to the final price tag, Friday's auction broke several other records that indicate how far the U.S. offshore wind industry has come in a few years, the Union of Concerned Scientists pointed out in a blog post. Each of the three parcels for sale sold for around $135 million, more than three times the previous record-holding $42 million that Equinor paid for 79,350 acres off the coast of Long Island last year. Compared to the Long Island auction, Friday's bidding also nearly doubled the record for the number of companies participating, with 11 vying for the parcels over 32 rounds. Parcels went for more than $1,000 an acre, while Equinor had paid only $535 an acre a year ago.
The winners were Equinor, Vineyard Wind and Mayflower Wind, which is part of a collaboration including oil giant Shell. But the message the auction sent to the industry made even the losers feel like winners. At least that was the case for Bill White, North American offshore wind director for the German company EnBW.
"I remember almost literally begging companies to bid a few years ago," White told the Union of Concerned Scientists. "I don't think anybody would have predicted that this many companies, including oil and gas companies and utilities would be bidding. And none too soon with climate change being far worse than ever."
The parcels leased on Friday to Equinor, in pink, Mayflower, in purple and Vineyard, in green.BOEM
Indeed, an attempt to auction off the same 390,000 acres off of Martha's Vineyard in 2015 got no bids. The U.S. has lagged about 20 years behind Europe in developing offshore wind power, but infrastructure investments in Massachusetts and legislative commitments to get more energy from offshore wind power in several Northeast states are turning the region into a hub of offshore wind development.
"I'm so proud to see this market come of age," White said.
Ryan Zinke Blames Wind Turbines for Contributing to Global Warming https://t.co/P8VotMcboJ @ewea @DeepwaterWind— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1520598630.0
Yet another former Trump administration staffer has come out with an endorsement for former Vice President Joe Biden, this time in response to President Donald Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
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By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
The annual Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for scientific experiments that seem somewhat absurd, but are also thought-provoking. This was the 30th year the awards have been presented, but the first time they were not presented at Harvard University. Instead, they were delivered in a 75-minute pre-recorded ceremony.