One of the best ways to power a home or business while minimizing your environmental footprint is by harnessing the
renewable energy provided by the sun. The good news for Californians is that the state has long been on the leading edge of green energy; as you seek solar energy companies in California, you'll find that there are plenty of options choose from.
In this article, we'll look at some of the top solar energy companies servicing homeowners in Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco and throughout CA.
Our Picks for the Best Solar Energy Companies in California
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
- NRG Clean Power
- Sunworks Solar Power
- Semper Solaris
- Stellar Solar
- Vivint Solar
- Sunlux Energy
- Solar Optimum
How We Chose the Best Solar Companies in California
There are a number of factors to consider as you search for the best solar installation company.
Some of the specific factors we used for our rankings include:
For one, it's important to note that different solar companies may offer slightly different services. Most CA homeowners will want a company that provides a diverse portfolio, assisting with everything from an initial consultation on their solar energy system to solar panel installation.
Also consider the specific steps in the solar panel system installation process. How long will it take to have your solar panels placed? Will the panels be installed by a trained member of the solar energy company, or will it be a third-party contractor?
Some solar companies have a wider field of service than others. It doesn't do you much good to hire a solar power company that's only active in Sacramento if you live closer to Los Angeles in southern California.
Pricing and Financing
You'll want to consider your budget, which can be a determinative factor. Keep in mind that most solar companies are going to have fairly steep upfront costs, but you'll ultimately save a lot of money in the long run, thanks to the reduced electric bills. Also, we have tried to celebrate companies that offer flexible financing options like solar leases.
We would generally recommend working with a company that maintains membership in the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) or other professional association. Membership in these groups is a great indicator of the company's professionalism, workmanship, reputation, and reliability.
Types of Panels
Pay attention to the specific type of solar technology that is offered. Is the company certified to install leading brands like Tesla Powerwall, Panasonic, and LG? It never hurts to take a closer look into the company's tech portfolio.
You can likely find solar energy rebates or federal tax credits by making the switch to solar energy. Will your solar energy provider help you make the necessary arrangements? It is often wise to inquire about these incentives on the front-end.
Finally, we would recommend seeking a solar energy company that can offer a good warranty. This can offer great consumer protection and peace of mind as you make a big investment in clean energy.
The Best Solar Energy Companies in California
NRG Clean Power
NRG Clean Power claims to do solar "the smart way," and they have a great reputation in the solar industry. They make solar panels accessible and affordable, without any financing gimmicks or middlemen to complicate the process. They have an admirable vision of decentralizing and deregulating power supplies, making it easier for all of us to participate in the clean energy revolution.
NRG Clean Power offers solar roofing, energy storage, and EV charging solutions, as well as flexible payment and financing options.
Sunworks Solar Power
Sunworks Solar Power is a company that supplies affordable and reliable solar energy solutions to homes, businesses, and even farms across the state. They actually boast more than 30 years of experience in the solar space, which makes them a true standard-bearer within the industry. In addition to some significant home energy savings, Sunworks Solar Power can also benefit you by providing a generous 25-year warranty.
There's a lot to love about Sunworks, specifically that they handle the entire solar energy process from start to finish.
When it comes to flexible, affordable solar solutions, Sunrun is a great option. You can actually get financing for your panels and other equipment with zero money down, making it incredibly easy to get up and running. Additionally, Sunrun assists with claiming any tax incentives that are available to you, either at a state level or the federal level. They also do an excellent job customizing their services, helping each homeowner get exactly the solar setup they need.
Learn why Sunrun is one of California's photovoltaic leaders.
Semper Solaris is owned and operated by American military veterans, which is just one of many reasons why it ranks so high on our list. We also love the fact that the company showcases a wide range of solar services, including heating and air conditioning assistance, solar batteries, and of course home solar installation. Also note that Semper Solaris offers service across California, with offices in San Diego, Inland Empire, Fresno, Concord, Los Angeles, Bakersfield, and beyond.
Semper Solaris is easily one of the best solar energy companies in California, and a great option for solar and battery storage installation.
Stellar Solar is primarily available in the San Diego area. They offer some incredible solar deals, including affordable equipment fees, low-interest financing, and access to some generous rebates and tax credits. Stellar Solaris has been around since 1998, and in that time, they have assisted more than 12,000 customers go solar.
If you live the San Diego area, Stellar Solar is one of the best solar contractors available.
You may know Tesla from their electric cars. What you might not know is that Tesla has brought a similar sophistication to the solar energy industry, developing premium solar panels that have been adopted by other solar providers in the state. Of course, you can always go straight to the source, having your panels installed directly by Tesla themselves. Tesla also guarantees to match any price on solar systems in order to offer the lowest prices in the country.
Tesla's solar panel systems feature sleek designs, ensuring that your solar paneling isn't just functional, but also aesthetically pleasing.
Vivint Solar is a solar installer that really excels in customization. They understand that no two homes are quite alike, and they tailor their solar designs accordingly. Additionally, their top-notch panels are backed with a 25-year warranty, which should give you ample assurance as you consider choosing Vivint for your home energy needs.
Vivint Solar also provides a complete service experience to help you with everything from system design to permits and installation.
Sunlux Energy delivers solar energy solutions in California as well as Texas, and they really have a lot to offer. Specifically, they can furnish solar panels and batteries, full home automation options, and even EV charging stations for your garage. They give free consultations, and they come backed with a great portfolio of online reviews.
Sunlux Energy is great for their full-service process, system warranty, and solar financing options.
Solar Optimum is an award-winning company known for its professional installation services, including a distinction as the 2020 Installer of the Year for Panasonic solar panels. They also back their products with reliable warranties and guarantees.
Solar Optimum offers true solar expertise, and their 25-year warranty covers the panels, inverter, racking, roof, and workmanship.
Free Quote: See How Much You Can Save on Solar Panels in California
Fill out this 30-second form to get a quote from one of the best solar energy companies in California. You could save up to $2,500 each year on your electric bills and receive both federal and local tax incentives and rebates.
How Does Solar Panel Installation Work?
As you consider hiring a solar energy company, you may have some questions about the installation process. What exactly is involved in having your home enhanced with solar paneling?
The process should always begin with a consultation. A solar expert will evaluate how much energy you need, based on factors such as your home's square footage, appliances, and the number of people in your home. Additionally, the consultant will help you determine the best places on your roof to place solar panels so that they maximize solar energy absorption.
The company will then install the panels onto your roof and make sure that they are connected to your home and operating properly. Once installed, these solar panels will capture the sun's energy and store it in a battery. A component known as an inverter will then take this solar power and turn it into AC electrical current, which is the kind of energy you'll need to power your appliances and home electronics.
The goal is that the renewable energy you get from the sun will be sufficient for you to stop using electrical power from a utility company. What's more, making the jump to solar energy can help you reduce your environmental footprint. For those seeking clean and (in the long run) cost-effective home energy, solar power can be tremendously advantageous.
What Do You Need to Go Solar in California?
Are you a good candidate for solar power? First and foremost, you'll probably need to own your own home. And second, you'll want to have a rooftop that receives plenty of sunlight.
One important note is that in California, depending on the city where you live, you may actually work with the local utility company, like PG&E, for a power purchase agreement or net metering service. The utility will still be connected to your home, but you will receive credits on your bill for the extra energy generated by your home's solar system.
This can be a little bit cumbersome, and you'll probably want to work with a solar energy company that can help you coordinate with your local utility provider as well as helping you get the permits and approvals you need. For residents of California, this is something to ask about as you seek the best solar energy partner.
The Benefits of Going Solar in CA
If you're interested in going solar in California, the first thing you'll want to do is research different companies so that you can find the one that best fits your budget and your needs.
Solar energy can make a world of difference for you and your family. We hope this guide will be useful to you in evaluating some of California's top solar energy providers.
Josh Hurst is a journalist, critic, and essayist. He lives in Knoxville, TN, with his wife and three sons. He covers natural health, nutrition, supplements, and clean energy. His writing has appeared in Health, Shape, and Remedy Review.
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By Roger Bales and Brandi McKuin
Climate change and water scarcity are front and center in the western U.S. The region's climate is warming, a severe multi-year drought is underway and groundwater supplies are being overpumped in many locations.
Western states are pursuing many strategies to adapt to these stresses and prepare for the future. These include measures to promote renewable energy development, conserve water, and manage natural and working lands more sustainably.
As engineers working on climate-smart solutions, we've found an easy win-win for both water and climate in California with what we call the "solar canal solution." About 4,000 miles of canals transport water to some 35 million Californians and 5.7 million acres of farmland across the state. Covering these canals with solar panels would reduce evaporation of precious water – one of California's most critical resources – and help meet the state's renewable energy goals, while also saving money.
Column: Restrictions under California's groundwater law are being formulated, but it’s evident farmers will not be… https://t.co/7wRv1dN2qT— Ian James (@Ian James)1619463926.0
Conserving Water and Land
California is prone to drought, and water is a constant concern. Now, the changing climate is bringing hotter, drier weather.
Severe droughts over the past 10 to 30 years dried up wells, caused officials to implement water restrictions and fueled massive wildfires. As of mid-April 2021, the entire state was officially experiencing drought conditions.
At the same time, California has ambitious conservation goals. The state has a mandate to reduce groundwater pumping while maintaining reliable supplies to farms, cities, wildlife and ecosystems. As part of a broad climate change initiative, in October 2020 Gov. Gavin Newsom directed the California Natural Resources Agency to spearhead efforts to conserve 30% of land and coastal waters by 2030.
Most of California's rain and snow falls north of Sacramento during the winter, while 80% of its water use occurs in Southern California, mostly in summer. That's why canals snake across the state – it's the largest such system in the world. We estimate that about 1%-2% of the water they carry is lost to evaporation under the hot California sun.
In a recent study, we showed that covering all 4,000 miles of California's canals with solar panels would save more than 65 billion gallons of water annually by reducing evaporation. That's enough to irrigate 50,000 acres of farmland or meet the residential water needs of more than 2 million people. By concentrating solar installations on land that is already being used, instead of building them on undeveloped land, this approach would help California meet its sustainable management goals for both water and land resources.
In Mendocino and Sonoma counties [drought conditions] are very acute. If you are in another part of the state you p… https://t.co/caAp22qCbH— CA - DWR (@CA - DWR)1619721780.0
Shading California's canals with solar panels would generate substantial amounts of electricity. Our estimates show that it could provide some 13 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity, which is about half of the new sources the state needs to add to meet its clean electricity goals: 60% from carbon-free sources by 2030 and 100% renewable by 2045.
Installing solar panels over the canals makes both systems more efficient. The solar panels would reduce evaporation from the canals, especially during hot California summers. And because water heats up more slowly than land, the canal water flowing beneath the panels could cool them by 10 F, boosting production of electricity by up to 3%.
These panels could also generate electricity locally in many parts of California, lowering both transmission losses and costs for consumers. Combining solar power with battery storage can help build microgrids in rural areas and underserved communities, making the power system more efficient and resilient. This would mitigate the risk of power losses due to extreme weather, human error and wildfires.
We estimate that the cost to span canals with solar panels is higher than building ground-mounted systems. But when we added in some of the co-benefits, such as avoided land costs, water savings, aquatic weed mitigation and enhanced PV efficiency, we found that solar canals were a better investment and provided electricity that cost less over the life of the solar installations.
Solar panels installed over canals increase the efficiency of both systems. Brandi McKuin / CC BY-ND
Benefits to the Land
Solar canals are about much more than just generating renewable energy and saving water. Building these long, thin solar arrays could prevent more than 80,000 acres of farmland or natural habitat from being converted for solar farms.
California grows food for an ever-increasing global population and produces more than 50% of the fruits, nuts and vegetables that U.S. consumers eat. However, up to 50% of new renewable energy capacity to meet decarbonization goals could be sited in agricultural areas, including large swaths of prime farmland.
Solar canal installations will also protect wildlife, ecosystems and culturally important land. Large-scale solar developments can result in habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation, which can harm threatened species such as the Mojave Desert tortoise.
They also can harm desert scrub plant communities, including plants that are culturally important to indigenous tribes. As an example, construction of the Genesis Solar Energy Center in the Sonoran and Mojave deserts in 2012-2014 destroyed trails and burial sites and damaged important cultural artifacts, spurring protracted legal conflict.
Clearing the Air
By generating clean electricity, solar canals can improve air quality – a serious problem in central California, which has some of the dirtiest air in the U.S. Solar electricity could help retire particulate-spewing diesel engines that pump water through California's agricultural valleys. It also could help charge growing numbers of electric light- and heavy-duty vehicles that move people and goods around the state.
Yet another benefit would be curbing aquatic weeds that choke canals. In India, where developers have been building solar canals since 2014, shade from the panels limits growth of weeds that block drains and restrict water flow.
Fighting these weeds with herbicide and mechanical equipment is expensive, and herbicides threaten human health and the environment. For large, 100-foot-wide canals in California, we estimate that shading canals would save about US$40,000 per mile. Statewide, savings could reach $69 million per year.
Artist rendering of a solar canal system for California. Solar Aquagrid LLC / CC BY-ND
Bringing Solar Canals to California
While India has built solar arrays over canals and the U.S. is developing floating solar projects, California lacks prototypes to study locally.
Discussions are underway for both large and small demonstration projects in the Central Valley and Southern California. Building prototypes would help operators, developers and regulators refine designs, assess environmental impacts, measure project costs and benefits, and evaluate how these systems perform. With more data, planners can map out strategies for extending solar canals statewide, and potentially across the West.
It will take a dozen or more partners to plan, fund and carry out a solar canal project in California. Public-private partnerships will likely include federal, state and local government agencies, project developers and university researchers.
California's aging power infrastructure has contributed to catastrophic wildfires and multi-day outages. Building smart solar developments on canals and other disturbed land can make power and water infrastructure more resilient while saving water, reducing costs and helping to fight climate change. We believe it's a model that should be considered across the country – and the planet.
Roger Bales is a Distinguished Professor of Engineering, University of California, Merced.
Brandi McKuin is a Postdoctoral Researcher in Environmental Studies, University of California, Santa Cruz.
Disclosure statement: Nothing to disclose. Roger Bales does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Reposted with permission from The Conversation.
Medically reviewed by Anna H. Chacon, M.D.
From eating foods for healthy skin to switching up your morning and routines, taking care of the largest organ in the body can get overwhelming. Recently, vitamin C has grown in popularity in the skincare world — but do the best vitamin C serums live up to the hype?
Vitamin C is not only an essential supplement for your immune system and overall health, but it's also a great skincare ingredient that can help limit inflammation, brighten skin, dull fine lines and wrinkles, fight free radicals, and reduce discoloration and dark spots.
Adding vitamin C to your skincare routine seems like a no-brainer, but before you start shopping for a serum, it's important to be aware that vitamin C is an unstable ingredient. Dermatologists say it's important to find legit and properly formulated vitamin C serums to capitalize on the benefits of the antioxidant. In this article, we'll help you find the right dermatologist-approved vitamin C serum to add to your routine.
Our Picks for the Best Vitamin C Serums of 2021
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. You can learn more about our review methodology here. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
- Best Overall: ZO Skin Health 10% Vitamin C Self-Activating
- Best for Sensitive Skin: Paula's Choice RESIST Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum
- Best Budget-Friendly Serum: CeraVe Vitamin C Serum with Hyaluronic Acid
- Best Cruelty-Free Serum: Timeless Skin Care 20% Vitamin C Plus E Ferulic Acid Serum
- Best Anti-Aging Serum: SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic Combination Antioxidant Treatment
- Best Brightening Serum: The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%
Skincare Benefits of Vitamin C
Also known as ascorbic acid or L-ascorbic acid, vitamin C is an antioxidant that is present in the formation of collagen and that protects against aging, according to Dr. Anna Chacon, a board-certified dermatologist with MyPsoriasisTeam. A vitamin C serum may be a solid addition to your skincare routine because it has a great safety profile, and it's safe for most skin types.
"Vitamin C serum restores and neutralizes environmental stressors that accelerate signs of aging and can be used morning and evening," Dr. Chacon says. However, she warns, "it does not come with sun protection, so additional use of sunscreen is recommended."
As an antioxidant, vitamin C protects skin cells from being damaged by free radicals from things like UV exposure, vehicle exhaust and cigarette smoke. It also hampers melanin production, which can help to lighten hyperpigmentation and brown spots and even out your skin tone.
6 Best Vitamin C Serums
Based on dermatologist recommendations and our market research, the following products are the best vitamin C serums available today.
Best Overall: ZO Skin Health 10% Vitamin C Self-Activating
Our overall recommendation for the best vitamin C serum is the ZO Skin Health 10% Vitamin C Self-Activating serum. The product contains 10% vitamin C, which has anti-aging properties and minimizes the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and sunspots by promoting collagen production. "I have this in my bathroom," Dr. Chacon says. "It is gentle and non-irritating, and it leaves your skin radiant afterward."
Customer Rating: 4.7 out of 5 stars with under 100 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: Along with L-ascorbic acid, this serum includes ingredients like Coenzyme Q10 for multi-layer antioxidant protection and plant-derived squalane for added hydration. ZO Skin Health's products are all cruelty-free.
Best for Sensitive Skin: Paula's Choice RESIST Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum
Made with plant- and vitamin-derived antioxidants including vitamin C, vitamin E, peptides and CoQ10, Paula's Choice RESIST Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum will help rejuvenate your skin. The formula fights dullness, enhances firmness and reduces the appearance of wrinkles.
Customer Rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars with about 300 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: This product is paraben-free, fragrance-free and cruelty-free, as it's not tested on animals. The container is 100% recyclable through TerraCycle, and it's formulated and manufactured in the U.S.
Best Budget-Friendly Serum: CeraVe Vitamin C Serum with Hyaluronic Acid
CeraVe Vitamin C Serum with Hyaluronic Acid offers high value at a reasonable price. It is a hydrating vitamin C serum that's fragrance-free, paraben-free, non-comedogenic and budget-friendly to boot. The formula uses 10% pure vitamin C to prevent free radical damage as well as soothing vitamin B5 and hyaluronic acid to make the skin look smooth and create a moisture barrier for your skin.
Customer Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars with over 20,000 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: Chacon calls CeraVe "a trusted, dermatologist-oriented brand" that comes at drugstore prices, so it's a great choice if you want to try out a budget-friendly vitamin C serum.
Best Cruelty-Free Serum: Timeless Skin Care 20% Vitamin C Plus E Ferulic Acid Serum
Timeless Skin Care's vitamin C serum promotes healthy cell turnover to help minimize the effects of hyperpigmentation and even out your skin tone. According to Dr. Chacon, "vitamin C, E and ferulic acid are all key ingredients that help to brighten skin, building up collagen and evening out tone." This product's formula is non-greasy and lightweight, so it absorbs quickly and clearly into the skin.
Customer Rating: 4.3 out of 5 stars with over 1,700 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: The Timeless Skin Care formula is paraben-free, synthetic dye-free, fragrance-free and polyethylene glycol-free. The company doesn't test on animals, and the product is made in the U.S. from natural ingredients. It's also part of the TerraCycle recycling program.
Best Anti-Aging Serum: SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic Combination Antioxidant Treatment
Using dermatologist-approved ingredients, SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic Combination Antioxidant Treatment is lightweight and helps to firm, smooth, and brighten the skin for a more youthful look. The formula utilizes 15% pure vitamin C as well as vitamin E and ferulic acid to protect against environmental damage from things like sunlight, ozone pollution and diesel engine exhaust. Plus, it helps firm the skin and reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines.
Customer Rating: 4.1 out of 5 stars with over 200 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: The SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic Combination Antioxidant Treatment is one of the best vitamin C serums for anti-aging purposes. It has an oil-like formulation that goes on smoothly and works effectively without clogging pores.
Best Brightening Serum: The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%
The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2% is a topical form of vitamin C that's rich in antioxidants to target aging and brighten the skin. It uses a high concentration of L-ascorbic acid as well as hyaluronic acid spheres for skin hydration. The brightening serum helps enhance skin smoothness and radiance without being too harsh. However, to test skin sensitivity, it is always recommended to perform a patch test before a full application.
Customer Rating: 4.3 out of 5 stars with over 4,500 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: This vitamin C brightening serum is cruelty-free and vegan and does not contain alcohol, phthalates, gluten, fragrance, nuts, oil, silicone, parabens or sulfates. The moisturizing serum is good for all skin types, including acne-prone skin and dry skin.
FAQ: Best Vitamin C Serums
What vitamin C serum is the most effective?
Our top recommended vitamin C serum is the ZO Skin Health 10% Vitamin C Self-Activating serum. It is a dermatologist-approved antioxidant powerhouse, yet it is gentle, non-irritating and leaves you with glowing skin.
Should you use vitamin C serum every day?
Dermatologists recommend using vitamin C serum either every day or every other day. After you cleanse and tone your face, use your vitamin c product before applying moisturizer and reef-safe sunscreen with at least SPF 30.
Does vitamin C serum really work?
According to dermatologists, the best vitamin C serums work to protect against skin aging. However, if you do not purchase a doctor-recommended product, you run the risk of wasting your money on a low-concentration serum that won't give you any benefits.
What are the drawbacks of vitamin C serums?
Many vitamin C serums on the market, especially cheaper products, have nearly immeasurable concentrations of antioxidants, which makes them ineffective. Additionally, as with any skincare product, some individuals may have reactions to vitamin C serums including itchiness and redness.
Anna H. Chacon, M.D. is a dermatologist and author originally from Miami, Florida. She has authored over a dozen peer-reviewed articles, book chapters and has been published in JAAD, Archives of Dermatology, British Journal of Dermatology, Cosmetic Dermatology and Cutis.
By Walé Azeez
While global car sales took a pandemic-related hit last year, electric vehicles (EVs) bucked the trend.
The number of EVs registered across the globe expanded massively in 2020, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA) – and this is set to continue over the next decade.
Here are five facts about the market from the agency's first Global Electric Vehicle Outlook report.
1. There Were 11 Million Registered Electric Vehicles on the Road at the End of Last Year
10 million of these were cars. The total number of electric cars, buses, vans and trucks is projected to rise to 145 million, or 7% of road transportation, by the end of the decade under governments' existing energy and climate policies.
With even bolder climate programs and emission reduction targets, there could be up to 230 million electric vehicles on our streets – 12% of all road transport – by 2030. Motorcycles and mopeds were not included in the figures.
2. Electric Car Buying Remained High in the Face of the Pandemic
Electric car registrations were up 41% in 2020, despite a 16% drop in overall car sales across the world.
Last year was indeed a ground-breaking one for the sector, as Europe overtook China as the centre of the global electric car market for the first time. From global electric car sales of 3 million, registrations in Europe more than doubled to 1.4 million, while in China they increased to 1.2 million.
Global electric car registrations and market share 2015-2020: Europe surpassed China for the first time in 2020. IEA
3. Consumer and Government Spending on Electric Cars Rose in 2020
A rise in the number of different EV car models available in the market to 370 and the falling cost of batteries saw consumers spend 50% more on electric cars in 2020, to the tune of $120 billion.
Governments also continued to encourage the move to EVs, spending $14 billion on direct purchase incentives and tax deductions – a 25% rise year-on-year. Before the pandemic, many countries strengthened key policies such as CO2 emission standards and zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) directives. By the end of 2020, more than 20 countries had either announced bans on sales of internal combustion engine cars or decreed that all new sales be zero-emission.
Some European countries increased buying incentives and incorporated the promotion of EVs into their post-pandemic economic recovery plans. China postponed the end of its New Energy Vehicle (NEV) subsidy scheme to 2022, to safeguard EV sales from the economic downturn.
Consumer and government spending on electric cars rose in 2020. IEA
4. Electric Bus and Truck Registrations Also Increased Within the World's Largest Markets
Across China, Europe and North America these rises were mainly due to municipal governments imposing greater emission reductions on commercial vehicles operating within their towns and cities. China, for example, commands a 27% share of all electric bus sales, where new registrations were up 9% in 2020.
Electric heavy-duty trucks, while more established in China, have only recently begun to come on stream further afield, currently consisting of around 1% of all truck sales in both Europe and the US.
5. Widespread EV Adoption Could Significantly Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions
The IEA says mass adoption has the potential to cut emissions by more than one-third by 2030 under the existing 'stated' green policies
Up to two-thirds of emissions could be slashed in that time if countries endorse more ambitious 'sustainable development' targets.
Long Road to Sustainability
While progress is being made, electric cars currently make up 1% of the global fleet. And significant barriers to the wholesale adoption of EVs remain, the report says.
Insufficient charging infrastructure continues to prevent wider use, as does the low supply of appropriate electric vehicles in many sectors, such as heavy industry. Despite falling battery costs, rising vehicle production to meet demand, and the promise of savings over the lifetime of an EV from lower fuel and maintenance costs, upfront prices remain prohibitive for some.
On the supply side, there are also challenges related to the poor sustainability levels associated with EV batteries: the sourcing of raw materials is frequently concentrated in a few developing countries that are often politically volatile and economically fragile.
A related concern is around recyclability. EV batteries consist of multiple Lithium-ion cells that are largely difficult to dismantle and which contain hazardous materials.
But there are some recent examples of the industry responding to this challenge.
Nissan is now reusing batteries from its Leaf cars to power automated guided vehicles used around assembly plants. And while Volkswagen has also redeployed old batteries, it has also opened a recycling plant in Salzgitter, Germany.
Global Battery Alliance
But until recycling moves from the fringe to the mainstream of EV battery production, demand for critical raw materials will only grow.
The Global Battery Alliance (GBA), initiated with support of the World Economic Forum, is a public-private collaboration between 70 organizations across manufacturing, public service and civil society that was established to address this issue by working to bring sustainability to the battery value chain.
The GBA advocates for the production of EV batteries and their by-products to be integrated into the circular economy and promoting transparency and reduction of greenhouse emissions from battery manufacturing.
Last year, the alliance outlined 10 guiding principles for a sustainable battery value chain, to significantly reduce the 40% of all annual global carbon emissions that the transport and power industry is currently responsible for.
It is also committed to policies in which EV battery production takes into account local economies, their environments and human rights, especially in relation to child labor exploitation.
Reposted with permission from World Economic Forum.
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By Kenny Stancil
Despite the difficulties associated with the Covid-19 pandemic, the world added a record amount of new renewable energy capacity in 2020, according to data released Monday by the International Renewable Energy Agency.
IRENA's annual Renewable Capacity Statistics 2021 shows that global renewable energy capacity grew by more than 260 gigawatts (GW) last year, beating the previous record set in 2019 by nearly 50%. Last year marked the second consecutive year in which clean energy's share of all new generating capacity increased substantially, with renewables accounting for over 80% of all new electricity capacity added in 2020.
Total fossil fuel additions, by contrast, fell by more than 6% last year—from 64 GW worth of new electricity capacity in 2019 to 60 GW in 2020.
"These numbers tell a remarkable story of resilience and hope. Despite the challenges and the uncertainty of 2020, renewable energy emerged as a source of undeniable optimism for a better, more equitable, resilient, clean, and just future," IRENA Director-General Francesco La Camera said in a statement.
"The great reset," as La Camera called the coronavirus-driven economic slowdown, "offered a moment of reflection and chance to align our trajectory with the path to inclusive prosperity, and there are signs we are grasping it."
The growth of renewables in 2020 tells a remarkable story of resilience & hope. Despite the uncertainties,… https://t.co/PXycDqano8— Francesco La Camera (@Francesco La Camera)1617616331.0
Referring to 2020 as "the start of the decade of renewables," La Camera noted that "costs are falling, clean tech markets are growing, and never before have the benefits of the energy transition been so clear."
Though hydropower—responsible for more than 43% of the world's total renewable energy generation capacity—still constitutes the largest global source of clean energy, other sources are catching up; solar and wind contributed 127 GW and 111 GW of new installations, respectively, together accounting for 91% of the growth in renewables in 2020.
🟢JUST RELEASED Renewable Capacity Statistics 2021 report by @IRENA shows how #renewableenergy performed in 2020 - t… https://t.co/VPwW1snMcL— IRENA (@IRENA)1617612361.0
While La Camera described the widespread adoption of renewable energy sources as an "unstoppable" trend, he also emphasized that "there is a huge amount to be done."
Notwithstanding recent momentum in favor of clean energy, La Camera said that in order to limit global temperature rise to 1.5ºC, "significant planned energy investments must be redirected to support the transition if we are to achieve 2050 goals" of net zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, as outlined last month in IRENA's World Energy Transition Outlook.
La Camera's words of caution about the inadequate pace of the global energy transformation echoes a recent warning by Fatih Bitrol, executive director of the International Energy Agency, who said last week that even though the world's biggest economies have pledged to achieve net zero GHG emissions by mid-century, few have implemented the policies necessary to realize that objective.
Regarding the worldwide expansion of renewable energy capacity in 2020, La Camera stressed that "in this critical decade of action, the international community must look to this trend as a source of inspiration to go further."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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Kids are the ones that will be inheriting the world from us. Getting them invested early in protecting the environment will ensure that their curiosity and interest will live on once they become adults.
Figuring out how to introduce the concept of renewable energy to kids can be tricky. The more significant challenge comes down to getting kids interested and excited versus putting them on the receiving end of another lecture.
It will take a bit of planning and creativity, but there are ways to get children interested in renewable energy even at a young age.
What to Explain
The concepts you plan on teaching children should be age-appropriate. An elementary schooler doesn't need to know the inner complexities of thermodynamics. Start small and slowly build into the topics you want to cover.
Start With Sustainability
Leaping straight into renewable energy is a quick way to lose a kid's interest. If you start throwing around terms they don't understand, they will quickly tune out. Depending on their age, you may even get an eye roll.
Sustainability means something can continue to exist for an indefinite amount of time. Gardening is an easy example to present to children for this concept. If a tomato is grown, that tomato contains seeds. Those seeds can be replanted, and the cycle will continue.
Once they understand the concept of sustainability, you can move on to the next step.
Continue With Energy Sustainability
Now that sustainability is a familiar concept, start leading them into how it applies to energy.
Most, if not all, children today know the basics of electricity as it applies to charging items they interact with, like tablets or even smartphones. Explaining to them that energy is where electricity comes from shouldn't take more than a couple of minutes.
If you want to continue the gardening analogy for continuity's sake, it's adaptable. Using energy sources like natural gas, fossil fuels, and oil, you will still get tomatoes. However, these tomatoes don't have seeds. Eventually, you won't even be able to grow tomatoes due to a lack of seeds.
Other ways of explaining it may be easier depending on the children. The key factor they need to learn is that the current energy sources are not sustainable.
End With the Types of Renewable Energy
There are five primary renewable energy types, but you don't want to introduce them all to kids in one go. Be sure to fully explore all of them so the kids can grasp how and why each one is an option.
The primary types of renewable energy to include in your discussion include:
- Solar - solar energy is one of the most popular forms of renewable energy and one of the easiest to teach kids about. Turning the sun's rays into electricity is sure to catch their interest. Teach them about how solar panels capture the heat and light (even on cloudy days) and convert all of that into usable energy. You can even describe how astronauts in space rely on solar energy on the International Space Station.
- Hydro - this is another easy renewable energy to explain. It's a rare child that hasn't interacted with a creek or river at some point. Explain that the constant movement of the water from the current can be converted into usable energy.
- Wind - show a child a picture of those massive wind turbines and they're bound to be curious. The wind turns the blades of the fan, much like a pinwheel, which then creates energy that we can use. Really get them thinking about the world around them and how something as simple as the wind can be turned into energy.
- Geothermal - geothermal energy may require a bit of extra explanation if the children haven't learned about the earth's core and how hot it is. If they already know about that, then you can show them how pipes that go deep into the ground run steam from this heat up into plants that turn it into electricity.
- Biomass - biomass renewable energy is as simple as burning a source of fuel, so most of this explanation will be what they set on fire and how do they get it. The fuel for these fires comes from byproducts of plants and animals. Manure, crops, and other waste can all apply here.
How to Explain It
Stanislaw Pytel / Stone / Getty Images
Now that you know the basics, it's time to pass that on to the kids. The big question is, how are you supposed to make all of this sound cool enough to get the kids interested in renewable energy?
Kids tend to be more into visual learning, so just telling them about these concepts isn't going to make anything stick.
There are a plethora of options online that can help teach children about renewable energy. Educational games are a great pick to get them interacting with the information, but YouTube videos or simple animations can do the trick as well.
You can use these resources to help kids understand the big picture. Or, you can find videos and games revolving around specific steps like how exactly river currents can provide energy or why fossil fuels aren't sustainable.
This is one of the best options you can choose to teach kids about renewable energy. Helping them create a science project to test out an aspect of renewable energy will be sure to hold their interest. A hands-on approach always helps with getting the information to stick.
Try these projects for an immersive adventure in alternative energy:
- Build a mini water wheel - the water wheel has been used throughout history, and having kids build their own is a great way to teach how hydropower is created. It can be as simple or as complex as you want, but used popsicle sticks can be turned into a wheel in a pinch. Having a nearby creek or river will be the most immersive way to test this project, but using the water in your sink will get the job done.
- Purify water - this is an effortless multi-day project to set up and will help you explain how versatile the heat from solar energy is. All you need is two containers (one smaller than the other), some water, food coloring, plastic wrap, and a rock. Long story short, the sun's heat will cause condensation and create a container of purified water. Bonus points if you can show the same results with your stove to show that the energy used naturally is more sustainable.
- Build a wind turbine - while you won't be able to make it as large as actual wind turbines, this is still a sure way to show how efficient it is to harness the wind's power. The items you use to build this can vary greatly but cut-up plastic water bottles tend to make solid fan blades. Once you and the kids have created the wind turbine just take it outside and watch the wind spin it around! A pinwheel works if you'd just rather explain with an example, but the act of building the wind turbine will work wonders.
- Cook using a campfire - this may sound more like a leisurely activity than a science experiment, but that was before you told the kids about using biomass for renewable energy. Unless you have casual access to manure, the fuel can just be dead branches and leaves you might find lying around. As you use the fire's heat to cook (something that requires electricity with the stove) you can show that the fuel to provide the heat came from dead plants that will eventually regrow the lost leaves and branches used. However, be sure to point out the smoke caused by the fire and how any fuel source that creates too much of that can be harmful to people and the planet.
Take a Field Trip
Field trips don't just have to be school-organized. See if you can find a day to take your child (or students) to a nearby renewable energy plant. Many of these locations are willing to give tours or educate interested people about what they do there.
This is also an excellent way to get free knowledge directly from the experts. They can answer any questions your kids may have that you would need some extensive researching to answer. It's also engaging for the children to directly see the process that they've been learning about.
Show the Impact of Non-Renewable Energy
This is far more effective when the children in question love animals and nature, but it can be useful regardless. Showing them videos of how things like pollution and global warming negatively impact nature can inspire them to start learning about renewable energy to help prevent it.
Be a Role Model
Kids do quite a bit of learning just from observing what the adults in their lives do. How you utilize energy in your day-to-day life can greatly help or hinder the learning process for the kids around you.
It's not an option for everyone, but many people are beginning to have solar panels installed on the roof of their house. Explaining to kids that their phones charge by way of the power of the sun is sure to get them interested in the overall process.
One way anyone can be a role model is to conserve energy where they can. Once your children know that most energy comes from non-renewable sources, they will realize why you always want lights off when not in use or when you try to keep your energy bills low (besides money).
How to Keep Them Interested
JGI/Jamie Grill / Getty Images
Now that you have the children interested in renewable energy, you'll have to make sure that interest continues to grow as time goes on. Unless they completely fell in love with the concept, they may start to forget important information if you don't keep them engaged.
Have a Weekly Theme
This has the dual purpose of keeping children interested and getting them to look forward to learning.
Give each week a theme that you can base activities and games around. Wind Week could involve some time at the park messing around with kites, or Hydro Week could be learning new aspects of hydroelectricity like how the tides can be used as well.
Home Improvement Projects
You shouldn't trust a group of young ones to go and install solar panels on the roof, but there are smaller projects around the house or classroom that you can do with them so that they feel they are directly contributing to using clean energy.
These projects don't even have to be big ones. It could be as simple as swapping out your current light bulbs for more energy-efficient ones. The key is to make children feel involved in the process and let them know exactly how these projects are helping.
One of the best ways to get children interested in anything is to make a game of it.
Whether it's at home or in the classroom, a game will get them involved in an activity that could continue to teach them about renewable energy. It could be as simple as a made-up card game or as complex as setting up stations around the yard and have them decide which energy would work best at each station.
Some kids also enjoy incentives, so don't be afraid to offer some sort of prize or reward if they do well in the games.
Keep Your Kids Invested in Clean Energy
It can be a challenge teaching complex concepts to kids, especially if you want them to take an interest in it. Start by breaking down the basic concepts so that you can have good conversations with them about renewable energy.
Kids learn best from visuals and by hands-on learning. Showing them videos, designing and creating projects, and even taking them to a renewable energy plant are all great ways for them to learn. Just remember, they also need a role model to look up to if they are going to take a true interest.
They may stay interested on their own, but there are ways that you as a parent or teacher can help that along. Creating fun ways to bring the subject back around like setting up games, projects, or weekly topics can go a long way towards keeping them interested and invested in renewable energy.
By Diane Kim, Ignacio Navarrete and Jessica Dutton
Giant kelp, the world's largest species of marine algae, is an attractive source for making biofuels. In a recent study, we tested a novel strategy for growing kelp that could make it possible to produce it continuously on a large scale. The key idea is moving kelp stocks daily up to near-surface waters for sunlight and down to darker waters for nutrients.
Unlike today's energy crops, such as corn and soybeans, growing kelp doesn't require land, fresh water or fertilizer. And giant kelp can grow over a foot per day under ideal conditions.
Kelp typically grows in shallow zones near the coast, and thrives only where sunlight and nutrients are both plentiful. There's the challenge: The ocean's sunlit layer extends down about 665 feet (200 meters) or less below the surface, but this zone often doesn't contain enough nutrients to support kelp growth.
Much of the open ocean surface is nutrient-poor year-round. In coastal areas, upwelling – deep water rising to the surface, bringing nutrients – is seasonal. Deeper waters, on the other hand, are rich in nutrients but lack sunlight.
Our study demonstrated that kelp withstood daily changes in water pressure as we cycled it between depths of 30 feet (9 meters) and 262 feet (80 meters). Our cultivated kelp acquired enough nutrients from the deeper, dark environment to generate four times more growth than kelp that we transplanted to a native coastal kelp habitat.
Why It Matters
Making biofuels from terrestrial crops such as corn and soybeans competes with other uses for farmland and fresh water. Using plants from the ocean can be more sustainable, efficient and scalable.
Marine biomass can be converted into different forms of energy, including ethanol, to replace the corn-derived additive that currently is blended into gasoline in the U.S. Perhaps the most appealing end-product is bio-crude – oil derived from organic materials. Bio-crude is produced through a process called hydrothermal liquefaction, which uses temperature and pressure to convert materials like algae into oils.
These oils can be processed in existing refineries into bio-based fuels for trucks and planes. It's not practical yet to run these long-distance transportation modes on electricity because they would require enormous batteries.
By our calculations, producing enough kelp to power the entire U.S. transportation sector would require using just a small fraction of the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone – the ocean area out to 200 nautical miles from the coastline.
How We Do Our Work
Our work is a collaboration between the USC Wrigley Institute and Marine BioEnergy Inc., funded by the U.S. Department of Energy's ARPA-E MARINER (Macroalgae Research Inspiring Novel Energy Resources) program. The research team includes biologists, oceanographers and engineers, working with scuba divers, vessel operators, research technicians and students.
We tested kelp's biological response to depth cycling by attaching it to an open ocean structure we call the "kelp elevator," designed by the team's engineers. The elevator is anchored near the USC Wrigley Marine Science Center on California's Catalina Island. A solar-powered winch raises and lowers it daily to cycle the kelp between deep and shallow water.
We depth-cycled 35 juvenile kelp plants for three months and planted a second set at a nearby healthy kelp bed for comparison. To our knowledge, this was the first attempt to study the biological effects of physical depth cycling on kelp. Prior studies focused on artificially pumping deep nutrient-rich water to the surface.
A diver at the 'kelp elevator.' Maurice Roper, CC BY-ND
Our results suggest that depth cycling is a biologically viable cultivation strategy. Now we want to analyze factors that can increase yields, including timing, water depth and kelp genetics.
Many unknowns need further study, including processes for permitting and regulating kelp farms, and the possibility that raising kelp on a large scale could have unintended ecological consequences. But we believe marine biomass energy has great potential to help meet 21st-century sustainability challenges.
Diane Kim is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies and Senior Scientist, USC Wrigley Institute, USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.
Ignacio Navarrete is a Postdoctoral Scholar and Research Associate, USC Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies, USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.
Jessica Dutton is an Associate Director for Research, USC Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies / Adjunct Assistant Professor (Research), USC Environmental Studies Program, USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.
Disclosure statement: Diane Kim owns shares in Holdfast Aquaculture LLC, which works on aquaculture for food, primarily focusing on mussels and oysters in Southern California. The company does not work on bioenergy. Research described in this article was funded in part by the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), U.S. Department of Energy. The views and opinions of authors expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of the United States Government or any agency thereof. Ignacio Navarrete receives funding from the U.S. Department of Energy for work described in this article. Jessica Dutton does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Reposted with permission from The Conversation.
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The Q2 report from the American Clean Power Association shows more than 2 gigawatts of solar energy were installed in April through June, along with nearly 3 gigawatts of wind capacity. Battery storage installed this year almost matches the storage installed throughout all of 2020.
Texas, by far the leading state in terms of installed clean power capacity, installed almost 1.5GW of clean power in QW2 alone, nearly triple runner-up California. Despite the industry's robust growth, both it and the White House agree new policy is needed to ensure the president's goal of achieving 100% carbon-free power by 2035 is met.
As reported by PV Magazine:
BloombergNEF head of analysis Albert Cheung warned, however, that 1.8% year-on-year increase is "nothing to write home about." He said that "an immediate acceleration in funding is needed if we are to get on track for global net zero."
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By Tara Lohan
Atlantic salmon have a challenging life history — and those that hail from U.S. waters have seen things get increasingly difficult in the past 300 years.
Dubbed the "king of fish," Atlantic salmon once numbered in the hundreds of thousands in the United States and ranged up and down most of New England's coastal rivers and ocean waters. But dams, pollution and overfishing have extirpated them from all the region's rivers except in Maine. Today only around 1,000 wild salmon, known as the Gulf of Maine distinct population segment, return each year from their swim to Greenland. Fewer will find adequate spawning habitat in their natal rivers to reproduce.
That's left Atlantic salmon in the United States critically endangered. Hatchery and stocking programs have kept them from disappearing entirely, but experts say recovering healthy, wild populations will require much more, including eliminating some of the obstacles (literally) standing in their way.
Conservation organizations, fishing groups and even some state scientists are now calling for the removal of up to four dams along a 30-mile stretch of the Kennebec River, where about a third of Maine's best salmon habitat remains.
The dams' owner — multinational Brookfield Renewable Partners — has instead proposed building fishways to aid salmon and other migratory fish getting around dams as they travel both up and down the river. But most experts think that plan has little chance of success.
A confusing array of state and federal processes are underway to try and sort things out. None is likely to be quick, cheap or easy. And there's a lot at stake.
"Ultimately the fate of the species in the United States really depends upon what happens at a handful of key dams," says John Burrows, executive director of U.S. programs at the Atlantic Salmon Federation. "If those four projects don't work — or even if just one of them doesn't work — you could basically preclude recovering Atlantic salmon in the United States."
The best place for salmon recovery is in Maine's two largest watersheds.
"The Penobscot River and the Kennebec River have orders of magnitude more habitat, production potential and climate resilient habitat" than other parts of the state, says Burrows.
The rivers and their tributaries run far inland and reach more undeveloped areas with higher elevations. That helps provide salmon with the cold, clean water they need for spawning and rearing. Smaller numbers of salmon are hanging on in lower-elevation rivers along the coastal plain in Maine's Down East region, but climate change could make that habitat unsuitable.
"There's definitely concern about how resilient those watersheds are going to be for salmon in the future," says Burrows. "To recover the population, we need to be able to get salmon to the major tributaries farther upriver, in places where we're still going to have cold water even under predictions with climate change."
One of those key places is the Penobscot, which has already seen a $60 million effort to help recover salmon and other native sea-run fish. A 16-year project resulted in the removal of two dams, the construction of a stream-like bypass channel at a third dam, and new fish lift at a fourth. In all, the project made 2,000 miles of river habitat accessible.
Veazie dam on the Penobscot River is breached in 2013 as part of a river restoration project. Meagan Racey / USFWS
While there's still more work to be done on the Penobscot, says Burrows, attention has shifted to the Kennebec. The river has what's regarded as the largest and best salmon habitat in the state, especially in its tributary, the Sandy River, where hatchery eggs are being planted to help boost salmon numbers.
"That's helped us go from zero salmon in the upper tributaries of Kennebec to getting 50 or 60 adults back, which is still an abysmally small number compared to historical counts," says Burrows. "But these are the last of the wildest fish that we have."
The Sandy may be good salmon habitat, but it's also hard to reach. Brookfield's four dams stand in the way of fish trying to get upriver.
At the lowest dam on the river, Lockwood Dam in Waterville, there's a fish lift — a kind of elevator that should allow fish that enter it to pass up and around the dam. But if fish do find the lift — and only around half of salmon do — they don't get far.
"It's a terminal lift," says Sean Ledwin, division director of Maine's Department of Marine Resources' Sea Run Fisheries and Habitat. "The lift was never completed. So we pick up those fish in a truck and drive them up to the Sandy River."
That taxi cab arrangement isn't a long-term solution, though, and was part of an interim species protection plan.
Only the second dam, Hydro Kennebec, has a modern fish passage system. But how well that actually works hasn't been tested yet since fish can't get by Lockwood Dam. As part of a consultation process related to the Endangered Species Act, Brookfield has submitted a plan proposing to fix the fishway at Lockwood and add passage to the third and fourth dams.
But federal regulators found it inadequate.
"Brookfield's proposal was rejected by the Federal Energy Regulatory Committee [which oversees hydroelectric projects] and all the [federal management] agencies," says Ledwin. The company now has until May 2022 to come up with a new plan.
State scientists aren't convinced Brookfield's plan would work either.
"We have really low confidence that having four fishways would ever result in meaningful runs of all the sea-run fish and certainly not recovery of Atlantic salmon," says Ledwin. "We don't think that it's going to be conducive to recovery."
In addition to considerations related to the Endangered Species Act, Shawmut Dam, the third on the Kennebec, is currently up for relicensing, which triggers a federal review process by FERC.
And at the same time the Maine Department of Marine Resources has drafted a new plan for managing the Kennebec River that recommends removing Shawmut Dam and Lockwood Dam. A public comment period on the proposed plan closed in March.
Brookfield isn't happy with it and responded with a lawsuit against the state.
It was good news to conservation groups, however, which would like to see all four of the dams removed if possible — or at least a few of them.
"There's no self-sustaining population of Atlantic salmon anywhere in the world that we know of that have to go by more than one hydro dam," says Burrows. He believes that having Brookfield spend tens of millions of dollars on new fishways will just result in failure for salmon.
Atlantic salmon parr emerging from a stream bed in Maine. E. Peter Steenstra / USFWS
It's partly a game of numbers. Not all fish will find or use a fishway. And if you start with a low number of returning fish and expect them to pass through four gauntlets, you won't be left with many at the end.
"If you're passing 50% of salmon that show up at the first dam, and then you've got three more dams passing 50%, that means you're left with only an eighth of the population you started with by the end," says Nick Bennett, a staff scientist at the Natural Resources Council of Maine. "You can't start a restoration program where you're losing seven-eighths of the adults before they even get to their spawning habitat."
And getting upriver is just part of the salmon's journey. Juvenile salmon face threats going downstream to the ocean as well, including predation and warm water in impoundments. They also risk being injured or killed going through spillways or turbines. Only about half are likely to survive the four hydro projects.
Atlantic salmon, unlike their Pacific cousins, don't always die after spawning, either. So some adults will also make the downstream trek, too.
"Just looking at our reality, at least two dams need to go, hopefully three, and it would be amazing if all four would go," says Burrows.
The fate of Atlantic salmon hangs in the balance, but so do the futures of other fishes.
The Pacific coast of the United States is home to five species of salmon. And while the Atlantic side has just the one, it has a dozen other native sea-run species that have also seen their habitat shrink.
"Those dams are preventing other native species like American shad, alewives, blueback herring and American eel from accessing large amounts of historic habitat," says Burrows.
Ledwin says removing dams on the Kennebec could result in populations of more than a million shad, millions of blueback herring, millions of eels and hundreds of thousands of sea lampreys.
"The recovery of those species would actually help Atlantic salmon as well because they provide prey buffers and there are a lot of co-evolved benefits," he says.
Salmon are much more successful at nesting when they can lay their eggs in old sea lamprey nests, explains Bennett. "But sea lamprey are not good at using fish lifts and we've essentially blocked 90% of the historic sea lamprey habitat at Lockwood dam. We need to get those fish upstream, too."
Dam removal advocates don't have to look too far to find an example of how well river ecosystems respond when dams are removed.
The removal of the Edwards Dam on the lower Kennebec River in 1999 and the Fort Halifax Dam just upstream on the Sebasticook in 2008 helped ignite a nationwide dam-removal movement. It also brought back American shad, eel, two native species of sturgeon and millions of river herring to lower parts of the watershed.
Alewives returned by the millions after the Edwards and Ft. Halifax dams were removed. John Burrows / ASF
"We've got the biggest river herring run in North America now due to the dam removals," says Ledwin. "And the largest abundance of eel we've ever seen on the lower Kennebec."
The resurgence of native fishes helps the whole ecosystem. When they returned, so too did eagles, osprey and other wildlife.
"When people see all those fish in the river and the eagles overhead, it just kind of blows their minds because they never realized what had been lost for so long in our rivers," says Burrows.
Rebuilding key forage fish like herring also benefits species that live not just in the river, but the Gulf of Maine and even the Atlantic Ocean. The tiny fish feed whales, porpoises and seabirds. They're also used for lobster bait and can help rebuild fisheries for cod and haddock, which has economic benefits for the region, too.
"We have to rebalance the scales if we want to have marine industries and commercial fishing industries and if we want the ecological benefits of what sea-run fisheries do for us," says Bennett.
The Path Ahead
The process to determine whether any — or all — of the four Kennebec dams that stretch from Waterville and Skowhegan are removed will take years, a diverse coalition, financial resources and agreements to meet the concerns of communities and the dam owner.
"These things come down to compromise, so there may be situations where one of those dams might not be a candidate for economic or social reasons," says Burrows. "But it will be interesting to see if in the next couple of years we can get to a place where we can have meaningful conversations with federal agencies, the dam owner and continue to engage the communities about the potential of removal at some of these sites."
And if removal of the four dams did happen, it wouldn't open up the river all the way to its headwaters. Another nine dams still lie upstream in the watershed that obstruct fish passage.
"Some of those are major dams in terms of power, production and economics," says Burrows. "So we're not calling for those to be removed."
The four lower dams provide just 46 megawatts of power — enough to supply about 37,000 homes and 0.43% of the state's annual electricity generation. It's a small amount of power relative to the damage they cause sea-run fish, says Bennett.
"By comparison we expect to add 1,200 megawatts of solar generation in the next five years," he says. "So these four dams aren't particularly important in our climate fight." And removing them would open up substantial amounts of habitat to aid salmon recovery that seem worth the tradeoff in lost power.
That's not the case, he says, for the nine larger dams upstream.
"We need those dams. We need hydroelectric power in Maine," says Bennett. "But we made big mistakes in our past use of our rivers. And we went way overboard in favor of hydroelectric power at the expense of fish."
Outside of the rivers, Atlantic salmon still face a tough road. Climate change is warming ocean temperatures, changing salinity and altering food webs. But having so many unknowns in the marine environment in the coming decades provides more reason to focus efforts on restoring rivers where scientists already know what works, says Burrows.
And if that's done right, the benefits will extend far beyond salmon.
"It's not just about salmon — it's about these other native fish, it's about the wildlife, water quality, economic opportunity for ground fishermen and lobstermen, and more sustainable forms of recreation and community development," says Burrows. "If we remove a dam or two here and rebuild these fish populations to pretty big levels that really impacts a whole bunch of different parts of society. That's what we want to try to do here on the Kennebec."
Reposted with permission from The Revelator.
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By 2035, every new car and truck sold in the U.S. could be an EV, a new report says.
Accelerations in technology and especially battery affordability, paired with new policy, mean the dramatic transition would save American drivers $2.7 trillion by 2050, an average savings of $1,000 per household per year.
The ramp up in EV production would also create 2 million new jobs by 2035. Battery prices have fallen 74% since 2014, and their unexpectedly rapid fall is a key driver of the cost savings.
EVs are far simpler mechanically, and more efficient, than internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, which translates to reduced climate pollution and lower costs for consumers.
Strengthened vehicle efficiency standards and investment in fast charging infrastructure are needed to accelerate the transition, which would prevent 150,000 premature deaths and save $1.3 trillion in health environmental costs by 2050.
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Falling costs have boosted solar growth over the past decade, so reaching that 40% threshold would require less than $562 billion in federal investment along with supportive policy. For solar to comprise 50% of U.S. power, solar capacity would need to reach 1,600 gigawatts, more than the total electric consumption from residential and commercial buildings today.
The report "illuminates the fact that solar, our cheapest and fastest-growing source of clean energy, could produce enough electricity to power all of the homes in the U.S. by 2035 and employ as many as 1.5 million people in the process," Energy Sec. Jennifer Granholm said in a statement. Transitioning the U.S. economy to clean energy would bring an estimated economic benefit of $1.7 trillion, driven by reducing the health costs of air pollution.
As reported by The Washington Post:
The report by the Energy Department's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy says the United States would need to quadruple its annual solar capacity — and continue to increase it year by year — as it shifts to a renewable-dominant grid in order to address the existential threat posed by climate change.
The report released Wednesday is not intended as a policy statement or administration goal, officials said. Instead, it is "designed to guide and inspire the next decade of solar innovation by helping us answer questions like: How fast does solar need to increase capacity and to what level?'' said Becca Jones-Albertus, director of the Energy Department's solar energy technologies office.
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By Andrea Germanos
Climate action groups and ocean defenders issued strong praise Monday after the Biden administration announced its intention to boost the nation's offshore wind capacity with a number of steps including preparing forfede leases in an area off the coasts of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.
"Today's announcement marks a revolutionary moment for offshore wind. This powerful renewable resource has been waiting in the wings of our energy system for too long, and now it can finally take center stage," Hannah Read, an associate with Environment America's Go Big on Offshore Wind campaign, told Common Dreams.
Taken together, the initiatives will create 77,000 jobs, generate enough electricity to power over 10 million homes for a year, and avoid 78 million metric tons of CO2 emissions, according to the administration.
The plan would general 30 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind by 2030—a capacity that would surpass the roughly 19 GW predicted in 2019 by some industry analysts. As NBC News noted, the nation's offshore wind capacity is largely untapped:
[W]hile on-land wind farms have flourished in recent years, offshore wind has yet to take off in a significant way, in part due to bureaucratic and permitting hurdles that were a source of major frustration for renewable energy companies during the Trump administration. As of now, the U.S. has only one operational offshore commercial wind farm, with just five turbines.
According to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, making up for such inaction is urgent.
"For generations," Haaland said in a statement, "we've put off the transition to clean energy and now we're facing a climate crisis."
Although "every community is facing more extreme weather and the costs associated with that," Haaland said that "not every community has the resources to rebuild, or even get up and relocate when a climate event happens in their backyards." She noted that the "climate crisis disproportionately impacts communities of color and low-income families."
"As our country faces the interlocking challenges of a global pandemic, economic downturn, racial injustice, and the climate crisis, we must transition to a brighter future for everyone," said Haaland.
Among steps announced by the Interior, Commerce, and Energy departments were a data sharing agreement between NOAA and offshore wind development company Ørsted Wind Power North America to help development of infrastructure; the identification of nearly 800,000 acres in the shallow ocean triangle known as the New York Bight to be "Wind Energy Areas"; $8 million for 15 new offshore wind research and development projects; and notice that BOEM would launch an Environmental Impact Statement for Ocean Wind's proposed 1,100 megawatt facility off the coast of New Jersey.
"The ocean energy bureau said it will push to sell commercial leases in the area in late 2021 or early 2022," the Associated Press reported.
@SecDebHaaland @SecGranholm @SecRaimondo @SecretaryPete @ginamccarthy46 It’s a bit buried, but here’s the final map… https://t.co/TBdHTFQOdl— Brett Edkins (@Brett Edkins)1617040318.0
Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-N.J.)—who's previously introduced legislation to incentivize offshore wind—framed the development as "a sea change in American energy policy and a new day in the fight against climate change."
"This is a down-payment on our national future for our children and their children after them," Pascrell tweeted.
Read, with Environment America, said the administration's announcement could serve as a major catalyst.
"The potential to power our country using clean, renewable energy off our coasts is immense, and the Biden administration's commitment forges a path to take full advantage of offshore wind. This federal leadership should give states the confidence to continue making bold commitments to go big on offshore wind. Now that the executive branch is throwing its weight behind timely and ambitious development, it's full-steam ahead," she said.
The news also drew praise from climate group 350.org, which, like Haaland, put the announcement in the context of the multiple crises gripping the nation.
"This is the type of climate action we need from the Biden administration: major investment in renewable energy that creates thousands of good-paying union jobs," the group's U.S. communications director Thanu Yakupitiyage said in a statement.
"In this moment of compounding health, economic, racial, and climate crises," Yakupitiyage continued, "it's beyond time to get our country off fossil fuels and on track towards a renewable future that centers the working class and communities of color."
For Oceana, the administration's good news for offshore wind must be matched with an equally important element—a forceful departure from dirty energy.
"We applaud the Biden-Harris administration helping to make offshore wind a reality in the United States—a necessary step in our climate strategy," said Jacqueline Savitz, chief policy officer with the group, adding that it must also have "strong protections for ocean habitat, especially for the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale."
But for "the U.S. to successfully take full advantage of this unlimited resource that can help solve our climate and energy challenges, Oceana is calling for permanent protections from dirty and dangerous offshore drilling as well," Savitz added.
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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Portable generators allow you to power your devices and certain appliances, even away from home or when your primary power source is taken offline. These devices are also perfect for camping or outdoor adventures. A portable solar generator can give you the power you need with a smaller ecological footprint by using solar panels. In this article, we'll outline some of the top options available in 2021.
Our Picks for the Best Portable Solar Generators
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. You can learn more about our review methodology here. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
- Best Overall - Renogy PHOENIX 300
- Best for Camping - Jackery Explorer 300
- Best for Multiple Devices - Goal Zero Yeti 1500X
- Best High-Capacity - MAXOAK Bluetti EB150
- Best Expandable Power - EcoFlow RIVER Pro
- Best Portability - Suaoki S370
- Best Price - Westinghouse iGen200s
How We Reviewed Portable Solar Generators
A good portable generator will offer you backup power in a convenient and reliable way. We have reviewed some of the top models on the market today, and arrived at a few that we think stand out from the rest.
To rank the best solar generators, we considered the following criteria:
- Size and weight. Smaller, more lightweight units offer much greater ease of use. We sought portable solar generators that aren't too challenging to lug around your home, or take with you when you go camping.
- Battery storage capacity. While your generator absorbs light through a solar panel, that energy is ultimately stored in a battery. The battery storage capacity, measured in watt-hours (Wh) determines how long you can use the generator before it requires a recharge.
- Inverter rating. Basically, inverter rating refers to the total number of watts that the solar generator can extract at any given time. Inverter rating, along with battery capacity, determine the wattage and power output of your generator.
- Expandability. Some generators come with a predetermined number of solar panels, while some allow you to add more solar panels as needed. This is an important feature to consider when looking for generators.
- Price point. Naturally, when looking for a new solar generator, staying on budget is always going to be a factor. We chose generators that are competitively priced.
The Best Portable Solar Generators
With these ranking factors in mind, here are our picks for the best portable solar generators available in 2021.
Best Overall: Renogy PHOENIX 300
Renogy produces several different power stations and chargers, but we especially like the PHOENIX 300, a solar power solution that's extremely lightweight and compact. It comes with an easy-grip handle and only weighs 6.4 pounds, making it one of the most portable solar generators around while still offering up to 200W of AC power for off the grid activities.
Why buy: The PHOENIX 300 can provide 337 watt-hours for up to 8 hours of AC continuous power without the noise or fumes associated with gas generators. It includes a number of the most common charging ports like two AC adaptors, a USB-C, USB-A, USB, and a D-Tap port for photography equipment.
Best for Camping: Jackery Explorer 300
Jackery's portable power stations are ideally suited for camping and hiking. The Explorer 300 offers great portability and fast rechargeable power at an affordable price. It includes two AC outputs, a USB-C, USB-A, USB ports, and a 12-volt car port.
Why buy: The Explorer 300 generator is a good option for those who are new to solar power, thanks to its low price and easy-to-use controls. Jackery offers a number of portable solar panel options, and the power station's MPPT technology means that it can be recharged from the sun in just 5.5 hours.
Best for Multiple Devices: Goal Zero Yeti 1500X
Goal Zero's line of Yeti portable power stations are well-suited for a wide range of off-grid uses, including emergency power, camping trips, and more. The Goal Zero Yeti 1500X is their most-popular large power station with enough power for everything from cell phones and laptops to medical devices like CPAP machines and even full-size refrigerators.
Why buy: The Goal Zero Yeti 1500X includes a 2000W AC (3500W Surge) inverter giving you the equivalent of a wall outlet power supply on-the-go. It also has seven different port options and a top-of-the-line app that makes it easy to monitor and manage your solar powered generator, no matter where you are.
Best High-Capacity: MAXOAK Bluetti EB150
For a high-capacity power station, check out the Bluetti EB150 from MAXOAK. Though it's not the most affordable option, you'll get a lot of features and utility for your investment. It includes a lithium ion battery capacity of 1500 Wh. When connected to three 150W solar panels, it can be recharged in about 3.5 to 4 hours.
Why buy: For a portable solar generator designed to power most household appliances under 1000W, the high-powered Bluetti EB150 is a great choice. MAXOAK also backs their product with a 24-month replacement or maintenance warranty.
Best Expandable Power: EcoFlow RIVER Pro
EcoFlow boasts an impressive catalog of portable power stations, as well as reliable solar panels. We like the EcoFlow RIVER Pro power station because its technology enables incredibly fast recharging; you can connect it to two 110W solar panels to recharge in as little as 4.5 hours.
Why buy: The EcoFlow RIVER Pro includes a wide range of best-in-class technologies. Offering 720 Wh of power with three pure sine wave AC outlets, and weighing only 15.9 pounds, these units are well-suited for camping and hiking, as well as use around the house. You can also add an additional EcoFlow battery pack to upgrade the power of your generator as needed.
Best Portability: Suaoki S370
Suaoki is a company that's known for simple, functional, reliable technology. Their S370 portable solar generator isn't necessarily flashy, but it's an extremely lightweight option, perfect for camping, hiking, and other outdoor adventures. It includes 14 outlet ports and a pure sine wave inverter, making it a versatile power option.
Why buy: This is one of our top picks for camping and hiking, though it may also serve your needs as a backup power station for small appliances and electronics. A lithium-ion battery gives this generator an incredible capacity battery life, particularly in relation to its compact size.
Best Price: Westinghouse iGen200s
There are plenty of reasons to consider the Westinghouse iGen200s portable generator. This is one of the more affordable options on the market today, which makes it a good entry-level solar power solution. The unit offers four charging options. You can recharge with solar panels, with the power from your vehicle, with a household power outlet, or with a separate generator.
Why buy: For a simple and inexpensive solar power generator, Westinghouse makes an outstanding product. You can charge up to nine devices at a time; and, depending on how you use it, you can potentially get more than 40 hours out of your generator.
What Types of Batteries Do Solar Generators Use?
It's important to note that solar power generators may employ different kinds of batteries. The most common option is the lithium-ion battery. These tend to be more expensive than lead-acid batteries, at least on the front end. With that said, a lithium-ion battery will prove more durable, which usually makes it the smarter investment in the long run. Solar generators include charge controllers, which regulate the volts of energy coming from the solar panels to the battery to make sure the battery isn't overcharged and damaged.
The energy stored in the battery is converted from DC power into AC power using an inverter or adapter.
What Can You Power With a Portable Solar Generator?
There are different types of solar generators. A backup generator is primarily used to power your home, should your electricity go out. In this article, we focused on portable generators, which are mostly used for hiking and camping. With that said, a portable generator can also be really useful during power outages, potentially keeping your lights, electronic devices, and small devices or appliances on for several hours. Depending on the watts of power your solar system generator kit can support, you can use it to power things like phones, tablets, laptops, TVs, coffee makers, a mini-fridge, certain medical devices, and most anything you would plug into a car charger.
Some of the generators we've listed here can be charged by solar energy or via other sources, including vehicles and power outlets. These different charging solutions make a generator more versatile, though of course, solar energy is what you'll want to use if staying away from fossil fuels is your goal.
What are the Benefits of a Portable Solar Generator?
There are a number of reasons why you might consider a portable solar generator:
- These units are ideally suited for camping and hiking. The ones on our list range in weight from under 10 pounds to over 50, but they are all fairly easy to cart around as needed, or to keep in your camper or RV.
- Though they are not primarily intended to be emergency backup generators, they can certainly be used in that capacity. In particular, they can provide emergency power to important medical devices as well as phones and computers.
- Unlike gas generators, portable solar generators offer power without making a lot of noise or creating a lot of fumes. This makes them much more appealing for campsites.
- Portable solar generators are better for the environment, since they don't rely on gas or diesel fuel to run.
- Using a solar generator is ultimately more cost-effective as you will never need to purchase fuel to recharge it.
Solar Power Can Take You Further
Solar power is one of the best options for dependable, renewable energy. Not only can it help power your house, but you can use these portable generators to carry that power with you, wherever you may go.
There are clearly lots of options on the market today. We hope our guide is helpful to you as you assess our own backup power needs, and as you determine which portable solar generator will give you the greatest value. Note that you can find many of these solar power options through third-party retailers like Amazon. Do your due diligence as you seek the perfect, portable solar solution for you and your family.
Josh Hurst is a journalist, critic, and essayist. He lives in Knoxville, TN, with his wife and three sons. He covers natural health, nutrition, supplements, and clean energy. His writing has appeared in Health, Shape, and Remedy Review.
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