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Symbolic Victory for Clean Energy as North America’s Largest Coal-Fired Power Plant Will Soon Be Home to a Solar Farm
By Ron Johnson
One would be hard-pressed to find a more symbolic victory for clean energy than a solar farm taking up residence inside the former home of one of the largest coal-fired power plants in North America. That's what is happening, on the shores of Lake Erie in Ontario, Canada.
At one time, the Nanticoke generating station was producing a staggering 4,000 megawatts of energy and was one of the country's largest greenhouse gas emitters. The plant was officially decommissioned in 2013, part of a long process to shutter all coal-fired plants in the province—a goal that was accomplished in 2014.
Now, in a move that unites local First Nations business leaders and renewable energy companies, the mothballed site will soon be home to a solar farm called Nanticoke Solar. The new project is a joint venture of Sun Edison Canadian Construction and the Six Nations of the Grand River Development Corporation.
The facility—located in Haldimand County on four separate parcels of land including a former coal pile—is expected to generate 44 megawatts and utilize the transmission wires already in place. The plant's capacity, is just a little over one percent of the some 4,000 megawatts the former coal plant used to generate, but it's part of Ontario's larger effort to replace coal with renewable energy sources.
Currently, the province of Ontario meets the majority of its energy needs through nuclear and hydroelectric generation. Clean energy sources—wind, solar and bioenergy—provide just six percent of the province's energy demand. Unlike most Canadian provinces, Ontario's emissions are on the way down—already at six percent below 1990 levels. The long-term goal of the province's climate change strategy is an 80 percent reduction in 1990 emission levels by 2050.
Nanticoke Solar is one of 16 new renewable energy projects announced by Ontario's Independent Electricity System Operator that in total could generate 455.885 megawatts of renewable energy including five wind, seven solar and four hydroelectric contracts. Of the new projects announced, 13 involve participation from Aboriginal communities.
“Six Nations has been involved in renewable energy for quite some time," said Matt Jamieson, the president and CEO of the Six Nations development corporation, an equity investor in the project. “We are a participant , through the (now defunct) Ontario Power Authority's Feed-in Tariff Program and we gained a lot of exposure through our partnership with Samsung at the Grand River Energy Park. We've demonstrated the First Nations community capacity to get projects done, those that benefit the environment."
In addition to generating clean energy, the project also manages to reuse an old industrial facility that has been nothing but a financial liability for the past two years.
“There are a tremendous amount of transmission lines essentially sitting idle and a quite expansive supply of land owned by OPG, so it made sense to work with them," Jamieson said. “That was the real motivation for us; it made a lot of sense."
In addition, the deal should also provide jobs for First Nations members. One of the corporations' stated goals, according to Jamieson, is to “maximize employment of our community members." The group has a contract to sell power back to the Ontario power grid at a set rate for 20 years. Beyond Nanticoke, the Six Nations group is looking for more ways to get involved in renewable energy.
“Our activities align with our cultural values," Jamieson explained. “You won't find us engaging in development activities that conflict with the environment or those elements that are important to us."
Six Nations of the Grand River is the largest First Nations reserve in Canada, with more than 25,000 members. The corporation was set up after a long 18-month process of dialogue and discovery with the Six Nations of the Grand River.
“We take a multi-generational approach," Jamieson said. “There is a common expression that asks to look to the next seven generations to make sure there is nothing well down the line [that will be negatively impacted by] what we are doing today. We are hypersensitive to this."
Construction work for the project is set to begin in 2017 and the solar plant is expected to start operating by late 2018 or early 2019.
The project hasn't been without its detractors though. Toby Barrett, a local conservative Member of Provincial Parliament, described Nanticoke Solar “a symbolic move" for province premier Kathleen Wynne. “It will be a good photo-op for Kathleen Wynne to let environmental extremists know that she has replaced the coal pile with solar panels. And when they get around to knocking down the stacks, that'll be another photo-op," he told a local newspaper.
Barrett pointed out that power produced by the former coal plant cost only 2 cents per kilowatt hour, while energy from the solar plant would cost consumers nearly eight times more or about 15.67 cents a kilowatt hour.
But such criticism doesn't take into account the long-term environmental and public health benefits of shifting away from coal. Here's a small example: In 2015, the first full year when Ontario was entirely coal-fired power free, the province had zero smog days.
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This research should serve as a rallying cry for polluting industries to make major changes now. Yet the agriculture industry continues to lag behind.
"The Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism wishes to inform the public that following extensive consultations with all stakeholders, the Government of Botswana has taken a decision to lift the hunting suspension," the government announced in a press release shared on social media.
Company Safety Data Sheets on New Chemicals Frequently Lack the Worker Protections EPA Claims They Include
By Richard Denison
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In a big victory for animals, Prada has announced that it's ending its use of fur! It joins Coach, Jean Paul Gaultier, Giorgio Armani, Versace, Ralph Lauren, Vivienne Westwood, Michael Kors, Donna Karan and many others PETA has pushed toward a ban.
This is a victory more than a decade in the making. PETA and our international affiliates have crashed Prada's catwalks with anti-fur signs, held eye-catching demonstrations all around the world, and sent the company loads of information about the fur industry. In 2018, actor and animal rights advocate Pamela Anderson sent a letter on PETA's behalf urging Miuccia Prada to commit to leaving fur out of all future collections, and the iconic designer has finally listened.
If people in three European countries want to fight the climate crisis, they need to chill out more.
"The rapid pace of labour-saving technology brings into focus the possibility of a shorter working week for all, if deployed properly," Autonomy Director Will Stronge said, The Guardian reported. "However, while automation shows that less work is technically possible, the urgent pressures on the environment and on our available carbon budget show that reducing the working week is in fact necessary."
The report found that if the economies of Germany, Sweden and the UK maintain their current levels of carbon intensity and productivity, they would need to switch to a six, 12 and nine hour work week respectively if they wanted keep the rise in global temperatures to the below two degrees Celsius promised by the Paris agreement, The Independent reported.
The study based its conclusions on data from the UN and the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) on greenhouse gas emissions per industry in all three countries.
The report comes as the group Momentum called on the UK's Labour Party to endorse a four-day work week.
"We welcome this attempt by Autonomy to grapple with the very real changes society will need to make in order to live within the limits of the planet," Emma Williams of the Four Day Week campaign said in a statement reported by The Independent. "In addition to improved well-being, enhanced gender equality and increased productivity, addressing climate change is another compelling reason we should all be working less."
Supporters of the idea linked it to calls in the U.S. and Europe for a Green New Deal that would decarbonize the economy while promoting equality and well-being.
"This new paper from Autonomy is a thought experiment that should give policymakers, activists and campaigners more ballast to make the case that a Green New Deal is absolutely necessary," Common Wealth think tank Director Mat Lawrence told The Independent. "The link between working time and GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions has been proved by a number of studies. Using OECD data and relating it to our carbon budget, Autonomy have taken the step to show what that link means in terms of our working weeks."
Stronge also linked his report to calls for a Green New Deal.
"Becoming a green, sustainable society will require a number of strategies – a shorter working week being just one of them," he said, according to The Guardian. "This paper and the other nascent research in the field should give us plenty of food for thought when we consider how urgent a Green New Deal is and what it should look like."
- Reduced Work Hours as a Means of Slowing Climate Change ›
- How working less could solve all our problems. Really. | ›
- Needed: A shorter work week – People's World ›