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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By Governor Jay Inslee
Climate Week this year coincides with clear skies in Washington state for the first time in almost two weeks.
In just a few days in early September, Washington state saw enough acres burned – more than 600,000 – to reach our second-worst fire season on record. Our worst fire season came only five years ago. Wildfires aren't new to the west, but their scope and danger today is unlike anything firefighters have seen. People up and down the West Coast – young and old, in rural areas and in cities – were choking on smoke for days on end, trapped in their homes.
Fires like these are becoming the norm, not the exception.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Bill McKibben
To understand the planetary importance of this autumn's presidential election, check the calendar. Voting ends on November 3—and by a fluke of timing, on the morning of November 4 the United States is scheduled to pull out of the Paris Agreement.
President Trump announced that we would abrogate our Paris commitments during a Rose Garden speech in 2017. But under the terms of the accords, it takes three years to formalize the withdrawal. So on Election Day it won't be just Americans watching: The people of the world will see whether the country that has poured more carbon into the atmosphere than any other over the course of history will become the only country that refuses to cooperate in the one international effort to do something about the climate crisis.
By Oliver Milman
The climate crisis is set to be a significant factor in a U.S. presidential election for the first time, with new polling showing a clear majority of American voters want decisive action to deal with the threats posed by global heating.
Do you support or oppose each of the following policies as part of the recovery from the coronavirus pandemic?<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQzODcyMC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNjg4MzY4OX0.B-bt9mltOhK0MHFbzK8G3_8sBkDAeUsAWm-AhNZYoxQ/img.png?width=980" id="acd43" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8724178274b9f96e27055f74a1bafe20" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
America's largest national forest, Tongass National Forest in Alaska, will be opened up to logging and road construction after the Trump administration finalizes its plans to open up the forest on Friday, according to The New York Times.
Aerial view of the Tongass National Forest. Alan Wu / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0
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By Ruby Russell and Ajit Niranjan
Hamstrung by coronavirus lockdowns, frustrated school strikers have spent months staging digital protests against world leaders failing to act urgently on climate change.
Pandemic Stalls Protests<p>Last November, the head of the UN Environment Program was among the public and scientific figures to warn that 2020 offered a last chance to cut emissions. Then, few could have suspected this deadline would coincide with an unprecedented public health emergency.</p><p>The pandemic has <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/tough-times-ahead-for-climate-protesters-during-corona-pandemic/a-52978469" target="_blank">dealt climate activism a blow</a>. Niedeggen says that as a movement demanding that the world act on scientific advice, the school strikers took lockdown restrictions extremely seriously, halted public protests immediately and took their activism online.</p><p>On April 24, Fridays for Future organized a "digital strike," with Niedeggen hosting a that racked up close to a quarter of a million views. "We were not physically standing together, but we were all fighting together," she says.</p><p><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/climate-strikers-get-inventive-during-the-covid-19-crisis-fridays-for-future/a-53229262" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Activists also gathered thousands of placards</a> from across Germany to lay out in front of the German Bundestag around the central slogan: "Fight every crisis."</p>
Opportunity for a New Normal<p>Last September's Global Climate Strike drew young and old protestors around the world, with organizers estimating a global turnout of 7.6 million, including an estimated 270,000 people in Berlin. Activists have adjusted this year's event to account for social distancing and different levels of coronavirus restrictions in cities taking part.</p><p>They say COVID-19 also presents opportunities.</p><p>"The pandemic shows that we can change our normal daily life, and we are very able to adjust to a situation of crisis," she says. The key question is how economies get back on their feet: "We have the possibility to build a new normal, to build a renewable world order, and an environmentally just, climate-just normal for everybody."</p><p>In July, Jeng was among 20 female Fridays for Future activists from the Global South to sign an open letter to G20 finance ministers warning that their decisions in "exclusive backrooms" over stimulus packages and corporate bailouts would "lock in development pathways for decades."</p><p>"The system is not broken, it was built to be unjust. We don't need recovery, we need a reboot," the letter reads, stressing that "black people, indigenous peoples and people of color," have been disproportionately hit by the economic, climate and coronavirus crises. </p>
Policy 'Not Quite There Yet'<p>Figures on stimulus spending do not suggest their words had much impact. The ministers were criticized for failing to relieve the debt of poorer countries, and according to <a href="https://www.energypolicytracker.org/region/g20/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Policy Tracker</a>, G20 countries by August had pledged $169 billion (142 billion euros) to fossil fuels since the beginning of the pandemic.</p><p>Katrin Uba, associate professor of political science at Uppsala University in Sweden, is researching Fridays for Future. She says that despite the movement raising awareness and gaining access to policymakers, real policy change "is not there yet."</p><p>Still, she stresses that social movements go through waves of mobilization as public attention on their core issues ebbs and flows. And perhaps one of Fridays for Future's biggest achievements is birthing a politically active generation that will keep the fight up long after corona becomes a memory. </p><p>"We know clearly from our research that many of the people who came to the streets hadn't done any protesting before in their lives," she told DW. "And we also know that if you do one protest, you are likely to do more."</p>
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