The 100-page analysis is an overview of nuclear waste storage facilities in seven countries: France, the U.S., Belgium, Japan, Sweden, Finland and Britain. Several of these nations' waste facilities were "near saturation," the AFP noted from the report.
"There is now a global stockpile of around a quarter of a million tons of highly radioactive spent fuel in around 14 countries," the report states. "The majority of this spent fuel remains in cooling pools at reactor sites that lack defense-in-depth such as secondary containment and are vulnerable to loss of cooling, and in many cases lack independent back-up power."
Moreover, these nations also have to confront other related problems such as fire risk, venting of radioactive gases, environmental contamination, failure of containers, terrorist attacks and escalating costs, AFP pointed out from the study.
"More than 65 years after the start of the civil use of nuclear power, not a single country can claim that it has the solution to manage the most dangerous radioactive wastes," Shaun Burnie, a nuclear specialist with Greenpeace Germany and coordinator of the report, said in a statement to AFP.
There is currently no credible solution for the long-term safe disposal of nuclear waste. We shouldn't be investi… https://t.co/IcBpR76ulV— Greenpeace (@Greenpeace)1548938104.0
Burying nuclear waste deep underground—a touted long-term storage option—"has shown major flaws which exclude it for now as a credible option," Burnie added.
Greenpeace has protested nuclear power for decades and is a proponent of renewable energy, which is "is better for the environment, the economy, and doesn't come with the risk of a nuclear meltdown," the group's U.S. website states.
"Every waste dump in the U.S. leaks radiation into the environment, and nuclear plants themselves are running out of ways to store highly radioactive waste on site," Greenpeace USA writes. "The site selected to store the U.S.'s radioactive waste—Yucca Mountain in Nevada—is both volcanically and seismically active."
Plans to build the long-delayed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste facility were halted in 2010 by then-President Barack Obama, but the Trump administration appears to have revived the proposal.
The new Greenpeace analysis comes right as a damning report from the Nevada Independent revealed that the U.S. secretly shipped weapons-grade plutonium from South Carolina to store in Nevada months ago despite vehement opposition from the state.
"Time and again, we have seen Trump administration officials treat Nevada as the dumping ground for the nation's nuclear waste," Democratic Rep. Dina Titus said in a press release about the shipment.
"If the Trump Administration thinks that making such a reckless decision under the shroud of secrecy will allow them to move forward with Yucca Mountain, they are mistaken," she added.
By Tara Lohan
In the last few weeks of 2018, the Trump administration set the stage for a big battle over water in the new year. At stake is an important rule that defines which waters are protected under the Clean Water Act. The Trump administration seeks to roll back important protections for wetlands and waterways, which are important to drinking water and wildlife.
This is just one of the upcoming water battles that could serve to define 2019. It's also poised to be a year of reckoning on the Colorado River, which supplies water to 40 million people and 5.5 million acres of farmland. A long-anticipated multi-state agreement is close to completion after an ultimatum from the federal government. And it could also be a landmark year for water management in California, with several key issues coming to a head.
Big things may also happen on the water infrastructure front and in efforts to address clean-water concerns. Of course, underlying many of the water issues is the specter of climate change, which is bringing both severe droughts and floods and exacerbating water-supply problems.
Let's dive into some of the issues experts say we need to keep an eye on in the coming year.
Clean Water Rule Change
The biggest looming water issue this year has to do with a law passed nearly 50 years ago.
On Dec. 12 the Trump administration unveiled a proposal to redefine the Waters of the U.S. Rule, also known as the Clean Water Rule, which was adopted in 2015 by the Obama administration to set clear guidelines on how certain waterways and wetlands are regulated under the 1972 Clean Water Act. The action came after two Supreme Court rulings in the early 2000s created some uncertainty about what the Clean Water Act protects.
Obama's rule slightly widened what was protected under the Clean Water Act (much to the chagrin of many industry groups and developers). For example, the 2015 rule included automatic protections for wetlands and ponds that are "within 100 feet or within the 100-year floodplain of a protected waterway," Vox reporters Brad Plumer and Umair Irfan explained. And they wrote last month, "In the past, tributaries of navigable rivers were evaluated on a case-by-case basis. But under the new rule, they're automatically protected if they have a bed, a bank and a high-water mark." Overall the change amounted to clarifying protections for about 3 percent of waterways.
The newly proposed Trump administration rule, however, would swing widely in the other direction, limiting protections to only major waterways, tributaries and adjacent wetlands. As written now, the new rule would strip protections from 18 percent of streams and just over half of the country's wetlands, but there's concern the final rule could be even more restrictive.
Industry officials praised the Trump plan. Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, called the Trump administration's proposal, "The Christmas present of a lifetime!"
Environmental groups had a very different opinion. The loss of protections, they said, threatens drinking water and wildlife, with the western U.S. poised to be affected most. In Nevada 85 percent of streams would lose protections, as would more than half in New Mexico and Arizona.
Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, NevadaCyndi Souza / USFWS)
"The rollbacks to the Clean Water Act the Trump administration is proposing are the greatest threat to this nation's waterways in 50 years," said Dan Estrin, Waterkeeper Alliance general counsel and advocacy director. This industry-supported proposal would "incentivize polluters to move pollution upstream, where they won't have to worry about federal or citizen enforcement," he said.
A 60-day public comment period on the proposed regulation is underway. Meanwhile Republicans in the legislature are already attempting to push through their own version of what kind of wetlands and waterways should be protected by the Clean Water Act—in this case, it would only cover permanently "navigable" waters.
It's not clear what will happen on this front, but however things move forward it will be critically important. "The Waters of the United States law will be tested, implemented, suspended or revoked," said Peter Gleick, president emeritus of the global water think-tank the Pacific Institute. Expect the debate over the rule change to be contentious and the final product legally contested.
Colorado River Agreement
2019 will be a year of reckoning for the Colorado River. It has to be—both nature and the federal government have issued ultimatums.
First, nature's part: With the basin in a drought for nearly two decades, the river's flow has dropped almost 20 percent (human-caused warming is responsible for at about a third of this reduced flow). By 2020 Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the watershed, could fall low enough to trigger shortages to Arizona, Nevada and eventually California. In 2020 the water users must also begin a massive renegotiation of how the Colorado River is managed and how we prepare for a future with less water—an epic task that needs to be completed by 2026, when the current agreement expires.
The three states have been busy working on a drought contingency plan to slow the decline of Lake Mead, a process that will need to be completed before the larger negotiations begin in 2020. One major snag has come from Arizona, which is trying to resolve in-state disputes.
Things are about to get even more interesting, though. At a recent meeting of Colorado River water users, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman set a deadline of Jan. 31 for the three states to settle their plan or else the federal government will step in, which would be a widely unwelcome scenario.
"This could be very messy," John Fleck, director of the University of New Mexico's Water Resources Program, wrote recently on his blog about Colorado River water issues. "It suggests that either voluntarily (through interstate agreement) or imposed by the feds, we'll have new shortage guidelines in place by 2020 to slow the decline of Lake Mead."
Even if a new shortage agreement is reached in the next month, Gleick said we're still likely to see political conflict among basin water users as water levels in Lake Mead continue to fall. It's not just California, Nevada and Arizona duking things out—the river is also shared with upstream states Wyoming, Colorado, Utah and New Mexico, as well as with Mexico downstream. What happens to the Colorado affects much of the West, including cities like Denver, Phoenix and Los Angeles.
And the drought contingency plan is also only a stopgap measure to give all the water users time to pause the crisis until the elephant in the room needs to be officially addressed: The Colorado River simply doesn't have enough water for all the claims made to it.
"Now, whether through ignorance or malfeasance, we now have communities that have come to expect that fictionally large supply, and few rules to determine who gets less, and how much," wrote Fleck.
This year's work will be a crucial one for setting the stage for these future talks and better understanding the new climate reality.
2018 ended with some momentum on climate action. International climate talks in December at COP24 in Poland limped to a close with an agreement in hand, but one that fails to meet the urgency and scale of the problem.
And while the U.S. was conspicuously absent from international dealings, more movement to address climate challenges are afoot on the home front, with increasing calls for political action and a Green New Deal.
Significant climate legislation will likely be out of reach with a Republican Senate and White House, but climate change impacts will continue to make a mark, regardless, and could help to motivate more public action and pressure on elected officials and corporations.
"Somewhere in the U.S. we'll see unprecedented flooding and somewhere else, unprecedented drought, as climate change continues to worsen extreme hydrologic events," said Gleick. "Temperatures will continue to rise." And all of this will compound water woes like declining flows in the Colorado River, harmful algal blooms across the country, the vulnerability of our croplands and declining groundwater levels.
Drought-impacted forests in California's Sierra NevadaPhoto by USGS
"I think that the overall story is that catastrophic times are here," said Kimery Wiltshire, CEO and director of Carpe Diem West, a nonprofit that tackles water and climate issues. We need to accelerate the pace and scale of restoration to meet our ecological challenges, she said. "Fortunately, there are a number of communities taking smart, positive steps for water resiliency in the face of climate change."
California's Grand Bargain
In California several long-term and contentious decisions over future water management will be headline-generating in the coming year, and we could see either compromise or conflict between the state and the Trump administration.
California's Water Resources Control Board has been working on a plan that would increase the amount of water left in key rivers that drain to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, the linchpin in California's vast water infrastructure network, to try to protect water quality and wildlife. It's a move that has made municipal and agricultural water users concerned.
Snow geese take flight above a field on Twitchell Island in the California Delta. Kelly M. Grow/ California Department of Water Resources
But just before 2018 closed out a new "grand bargain" was beginning to emerge between state agencies, federal agencies, irrigation districts and urban water agencies.
If the deal comes to fruition, "it could be revolutionary" in terms of the region's water management, said Ellen Hanak, a senior fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California and director of the PPIC Water Policy Center. The parties have committed to hammering out the agreement in 2019. "Federal, state and local parties are on the threshold of something really different and potentially much more impactful than what the regulatory situation can do on its own," said Hanak.
The plan would provide a funding stream for habitat restoration projects for ailing fish populations and also trim water exports from the watershed by urban and agricultural water users. Environmental groups, which were not part of the negotiations, think those water cuts are not nearly enough to protect fish, some of which are endangered.
"It appears that California's salmon, thousands of fishing jobs and the health of the Bay Delta estuary are the sacrificial lambs in these series of agreements between the Trump and the Brown administrations," Doug Obegi, a lawyer for the Natural Resources Defense Council, told The Sacramento Bee.
As the possible settlement is further negotiated this year, the Trump administration could throw another wrench into the plan as it attempts to roll back environment regulations for the delta in an effort to appease the agriculture industry.
"What's the state water board going to do if they enact stricter regulations just as Trump is undoing a bunch of environmental protections?" asked Chris Austin, publisher of Maven's Notebook, which chronicles California's water issues.
There are also two other major infrastructure issues where California may butt heads with the Trump administration (and others) in the new year. The first is an effort to raise the height of Shasta dam. Another is a $17 billion project to construct new water conveyance tunnels. Both will also be big decisions for the future of imperiled species.
Infrastructure and Clean Water
There's one more key issue that should dominate water discussions and policy in the next year: Many Americans still don't have access to safe drinking water. The American Society of Civil Engineers has given our nation's water infrastructure a D grade, and billions are needed to upgrade aging pipes, pumps and plants.
Hanak thinks that more progress will be made in efforts to address water inequities in California, where hundreds of thousands of people, mostly in low-income and communities of color, have chronically contaminated drinking water.
Issues abound elsewhere, too.
"The ongoing saga of Flint, Michigan, will go on, and the discussion about the country's failing water infrastructure will continue, with new urban water quality challenges," said Gleick.
Will there be any progress this year? "There is a chance for some bipartisan action on water infrastructure as part of the broader push to pass infrastructure funding in the U.S. Congress," said Gleick. Like all of these issues, though, that could evaporate quickly as the Trump administration continues its attacks against environmental regulation and protection.
New EPA Rule Would Sabotage Clean Water Act https://t.co/HpPkePSyYy— Enviro Voter Project (@Enviro Voter Project)1544465047.0
What water issues do you think will matter most in the coming year? Share your thoughts on Twitter using the hashtag #Water2019.
Tara Lohan is deputy editor of The Revelator.
Reposted with permission from our media associate The Revelator.
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
By Jeff Deyette
Despite the Trump administration's ongoing attempts to prop up coal and undermine renewables—at FERC, EPA and through tariffs and the budget process—2018 should instead be remembered for the surge in momentum toward a clean energy economy. Here are nine storylines that caught my attention this past year and help illustrate the unstoppable advancement of renewable energy and other modern grid technologies.
1. California Goes All-In for Carbon-Free Electricity
In late August, California—the world's 5th largest economy—committed to the target of fully decarbonizing its power sector by 2045. The landmark legislation also strengthens the state's renewable portfolio standard (also known as a renewable energy standard, or RES) from 50 to 60 percent by 2030. What's more, at the bill signing, Governor Jerry Brown signed an executive order that establishes a goal of achieving carbon-neutrality across all sectors of California's sprawling economy by 2045, cementing the state's place as a global leader in climate action.
2. Several States Strengthen Their RES Requirements
State-level renewable electricity standards continued to be a primary driver of new renewable energy development in 2018. In addition to California, legislatures in New Jersey (50 percent by 2030), Connecticut (40 percent by 2030) and Massachusetts (35 percent by 2030) all adopted stronger targets for renewable energy, accelerating their states' transitions away from fossil fuels. In addition, voters in Nevada overwhelmingly approved a measure to increase their state's RES to 50 percent by 2030 (the measure must be approved again in 2020 to officially become law).
3. Clean Energy Champions Win Gubernatorial Races
One of the bright spots in November's election results was the number newly elected governors who campaigned on aggressive clean energy and climate change agendas. Newly elected governors in at least 10 states, including California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico and Wisconsin, have pledged to accelerate clean energy and carbon reductions in their states by supporting U.S. commitments to the Paris agreement, joining the U.S. Climate Alliance and/or calling for renewable energy targets of 80 to 100 percent. These election results demonstrate the widespread support for greater investments in renewable energy and signal the push for even stronger clean energy policies in the coming year.
4. Record Low Prices for Renewables
Innovation, growing economies of scale and attractive financing continued to drive the costs down for renewables in 2018. Power purchase agreements for wind and solar projects in states like Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas have reportedly ranged between $20 to $30 per megawatt-hour, well below the cost of natural gas generation—and the technologies are positioned for further cost reductions to continue to be low-cost options even as federal tax incentives change. What's even more exciting is that the many of these low-priced projects also include energy storage components, increasing their value to the grid.
5. Major Utilities Commit to Low-Carbon Portfolios
Earlier this month, Xcel Energy became the first major utility to commit to a completely carbon-free electricity supply across the eight states it operates in. In doing so, it joins a growing number of utilities that are committing to phasing out their use of coal and transitioning to substantially lower carbon energy portfolios. Also this year, both Consumers Energy in Michigan and NIPSCO in northern Indiana announced plans to phase out coal generation and utility giant American Electric Power announced a goal of reducing its carbon emissions 80 percent by 2050. What's especially exciting about these utility actions is that they are driven primarily by economics, clearly demonstrating the competitiveness of clean energy technologies.
6. Corporate Renewable Energy Purchases Keep Growing
Low renewable energy prices continue to attract major corporations looking to save money and achieve ambitious sustainability goals. As a result, direct corporate purchases of renewable energy have become a major driver of renewable energy deployment. In 2018, the Rocky Mountain Institute reports, corporate renewable energy purchases—led by companies like Facebook, Walmart, ATT and Microsoft—reached more than 6.4 gigawatts (GW). The number of corporations investing in renewables expanded at a record pace this year as well, with nearly two-thirds of Fortune 100 and nearly half of Fortune 500 companies now having set ambitious renewable energy goals.
7. Offshore Wind Moves Forward
Kim Hansen / Wikimedia Commons
While no new offshore wind projects came online in the U.S. this year (the next project—off the Virginia coast—is scheduled for 2020), the industry did take some big leaps toward becoming a major player in the nation's power supply. For example, the winning bid for Massachusetts' first request for offshore wind proposals to help meet the state's offshore wind requirements passed in 2016 went to an 800-megawatt project from Vineyard Wind at a shockingly low price of about 6.5 cents per kilowatt-hour. In addition, the latest U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management auction for leasing parcels of water for future projects resulted in 11 bidders and $405.1 million in winning bids, both smashing previous records. And strong state policies, including new offshore wind requirements in New Jersey and elsewhere, mean that there's a lot more action to come.
8. Storage Steps Into the Spotlight
Lithium-ion batteries for advanced energy storageArgonne National Laboratory / Flickr
Once a fringe player in the electric power sector, the energy storage industry is quickly emerging as a game changer in the transition to a clean energy economy as a tool for integrating much higher levels of renewable energy. In 2018, the pipeline for new storage projects doubled to nearly 33 GW as more utilities are investing in the technology thanks largely rapidly falling prices and growing support from state policies. While California has led the nation in storage deployment to date, New York recently established the strongest storage requirement in the country at 3,000 MW by 2030. Earlier this year, New Jersey set an ambitious storage target of 2,000 MW by 2030 and Massachusetts significantly increased its storage requirement to 1,000 megawatt-hours by 2025. At the federal level, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued Order 841, which directs regional grid operators to set market rules that allow energy storage to participate on a level playing field in the wholesale energy, capacity and ancillary services markets.
9. PG&E Turns Down the Gas With Storage and Renewables
In one particular sign of what's to come in 2019 and beyond in terms of how these technologies fit together to displace fossil fuels, one of the most exciting regulatory decisions I saw this year was the California Public Utility Commission's approval of PG&E's plan to use energy storage to replace retiring gas generators. One of the key barriers to fully transitioning to a carbon-free economy is replacing natural gas generation and the ancillary services they provide to the power grid. This decision, which marks the first time a utility will directly replace power plants with battery storage, should spur many more similar projects to move forward in California and across the country and open the door for integrating much higher levels of renewable energy onto the power grid.
These nine stories are just a sampling of what occurred in 2018 to further the clean energy transition. As the year comes to a close, UCS will continue to work hard to keep up the clean energy momentum in 2019.
All Renewables Will Be Cost Competitive With Fossil Fuels by 2020 https://t.co/QectZLGqOF #renewables @350… https://t.co/9rc89HJlCz— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1516026187.0
Jeff Deyette is the director of state policy and analysis at the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Friday the U.S. Navy released details of a plan to seize more than 600,000 acres of public land in central Nevada to expand a bombing range. The land under threat includes rich habitat for mule deer, important desert springs and nesting sites for raptors like golden eagles.
If approved by Congress, the 1,536-page plan would transform entire valleys and mountain ranges into bombing targets. Combined with another proposal to expand the Air Force's Nevada Test and Training Range, the military is attempting to grab 1.75 million acres of public land in Nevada—an area larger than Delaware.
"It's outrageous that the Trump administration wants to ram another military takeover of public lands down our throats," said Patrick Donnelly, Nevada state director at the Center for Biological Diversity. "The wide-open spaces of central Nevada's basin-and-range country are part of what makes our state so spectacular. Congress shouldn't let Trump seize hundreds of thousands of acres of public land so the military can drop bombs on our cherished wildlife and wild places."
The proposal would triple the size of Fallon Naval Air Station bombing ranges, seizing land in the iconic Fairview Peak area and the Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge. The plan released Friday follows an earlier proposal to expand the Nevada Test and Training Range in southern Nevada, which would take more than 1.1 million acres of Desert National Wildlife Refuge, currently managed to protect bighorn sheep and other wildlife.
The public has 60 days to comment on the enormous draft environmental impact statement, shorter than the 90 days normally given to comment on such a lengthy and complex document. The Navy has scheduled public meetings in Hawthorne and Gabbs (Dec. 10), Austin and Eureka (Dec. 11), Fallon (Dec. 12), and Reno and Lovelock (Dec. 13).
"The military has a long history of trying to stymie legally required public involvement," said Donnelly. "We'll shine a bright light on this process and highlight the risks this bombing range expansion poses to wildlife and public lands."
Video: Freedom to Breathe Tour Bus Visits Communities Across the Country Working on Climate Solutions
By Owen Agnew
Wildfires, sea level rise, air pollution, asthma—you don't have to go far to find communities living with climate change impacts. But there are also climate solutions everywhere you look. This summer, the Freedom to Breathe Tour visited communities across the country that are working to reduce carbon emissions and make their communities healthier and more resilient.
Freedom to Breathe Solutions youtu.be
At Chispas Farm in Albuquerque, New Mexico, climate change figures into every planting decision. "The whole goal and why we grow so many crops, is this idea of resilience and diversity," farm manager Casey Holland said. "We grow over 120 different varieties of vegetables, mainly because, with a changing climate, some will do better than others."
Crop diversity is an important way farmers can adapt to climate variability, but many older crop varieties are being lost. In the U.S., 90 percent of the fruit and vegetable varieties grown by farmers a century ago are no longer available. Seed banks can help keep older, traditional varieties readily available to farmers and communities. At Tesuque Pueblo outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico, where people have been farming for more than 900 years, the pueblo's seed bank stores traditional varieties of corn, beans, squash, melons and other vegetables. Gailey Morgan, foreman at Tesuque Pueblo Farm, said the goal of the seed bank is to make locally sourced seeds available to the community. "We're here in the high desert, and we feel like our seeds are adapted to our environment here," Morgan said.
From locally-sourced seeds in New Mexico, the Freedom to Breathe Tour traveled to Nevada, where community members, politicians and businesses are working together to make solar power available to everyone. Last year assemblyman Chris Brooks helped pass a state law bringing back net metering, which makes roof-top solar viable. "We're providing a democratization of energy production," Brooks said, "and that is so important to so many segments of society. Everyone should be able to participate in both making their own energy, creating high-paying good-quality jobs, but also being part of the solution as we fight climate change, instead of being part of the problem."
Residential solar company Sunrun is helping to make solar affordable in Nevada and elsewhere. They offer discounted electricity rates to low-income customers in Nevada, and in California, they've committed to installing 100MW of solar on affordable housing around the state in the next ten years.
The growth of solar and wind energy across the country means that the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions is no longer power generation—it's transportation. In California, where transportation accounts for 41 percent of emissions, the state is investing heavily in EVs and EV charging infrastructure, and plans to move to all electric buses by 2040. That includes school buses. With the help of state funds, school districts across the state are investing in electric school buses. For John Clements, a former district transportation director and a self-described electric bus evangelist, every bus is a mark of progress. "In my own school district, one in six students carried an inhaler to school. That's an example of what we're trying to change here," Clements said.
The move to electric school buses is just beginning—the leading manufacturer, Lion Electric, has about 150 electric school buses on the road across the country, and there are almost 500,000 school buses nationwide. But many states are planning to devote some of their share of the $3 billion Volkswagen settlement money towards replacing diesel school buses, which means the number of zero-emission school buses will continue to rise.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Nexus Media.
The Federal Government Has Long Treated Nevada as a Dumping Ground, and It’s Not Just Yucca Mountain
By Michael Green
Nevadans can be forgiven for thinking they are in an endless loop of "The Walking Dead" TV series. Their least favorite zombie federal project refuses to die.
In 2010, Congress had abandoned plans to turn Yucca Mountain, about 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas, into the nation's only federal dump for nuclear waste so radioactive it requires permanent isolation. And the House recently voted by a wide margin to resume these efforts.
Nevada's U.S. Senators Dean Heller, a Republican, and Catherine Cortez Masto, a Democrat, have made their determination to block the latest Yucca proposal clear since the Trump administration first proposed resurrecting the project in early 2017.
While teaching and writing about the state's history for more than 30 years, I have followed the Yucca Mountain fight from the beginning—as well as how Nevadans' views have evolved on all things nuclear. The project could well go forward, but I believe that it probably won't as long as there are political benefits to stopping it.
The Roots of Statewide Resentment
Two-thirds of Nevadans oppose this plan, according to a 2017 poll. The state's experience with federal actions, including nuclear weapons and waste, may help explain the proposed repository's long-standing unpopularity.
When Nevada became a state in 1864, it had to cede all claims to federal land within its boundaries. This left the federal government owning more than 85 percent of the state, reducing its potential tax base, and angering ranchers who have chafed at federal controls and fees for grazing their livestock ever since.
In 1873, the U.S. adopted the gold standard, reducing the value of silver—large amounts of which came from Nevada, known as the "The Silver State." After the "Crime of '73," Nevadan state leaders dedicated themselves to restoring silver as an anchor of monetary policy, to no avail.
A series of boom-and-bust cycles ensued. Nevadans sought other means of prosperity, including some that other states shunned. In 1897, for example, Nevada hosted a world heavyweight boxing championship when other states refused.
That decision and the state's declining population prompted the Chicago Tribune to suggest revoking Nevada's statehood. Similar calls cropped up over Nevada's permissive divorce and gambling laws.
A Magnet for Federal Projects
Tourism, however, became central to Nevada's economy. So did federal projects, like Hoover Dam, which enabled southern Nevada to obtain most of the water it needs to survive.
World War II and the Cold War prompted numerous federal projects that benefited southern Nevada. A wartime gunnery school evolved into Nellis Air Force Base, and a magnesium plant led to the founding of the city of Henderson.
In 1951, seeking a cheaper domestic location for nuclear tests and research, the Atomic Energy Commission chose part of Nellis. Until 1963, the Nevada Test Site was the scene of about 100 aboveground atomic tests, with more than 800 additional underground tests to follow until nuclear testing ceased in 1992.
When aboveground testing began, Nevada cashed in. The governor welcomed the chance to see the desert "blooming with atoms." Las Vegas marketed the mushroom cloud as a tourist attraction, as well as an atomic hairdo and cocktail. Atomic Energy Commission pamphlets and videos declared the tests to be harmless to those living nearby.
After learning more about the health dangers associated with nuclear fallout, Nevadans began to trust the government less. Repeated leaks and safety issues at the nation's first low-level nuclear waste dump, opened in 1962 in Beatty, Nevada, eventually led to its closure in 1992.
Distant nuclear incidents also stoked concerns. The nation's worst nuclear accident to date at the Three Mile Island plant in Pennsylvania, as well as the Soviet Union's Chernobyl meltdown, rang alarm bells.
Separately, some rural Nevadans came to resent federal regulations overall, especially after the federal government increased the Bureau of Land Management's regulatory powers in the mid-1970s. Their Sagebrush Rebellion sought state control over almost all federal lands within Nevada's borders and spread throughout the rural West.
The 'Screw Nevada' Bill
As nuclear testing waned, the federal government scrambled to find somewhere to stow the spent fuel from nuclear power plants that had piled up in 39 states. In 1982, Congress approved a plan for the consideration of sites in Washington, Texas and Nevada.
But five years later, without getting conclusive findings based on those studies, lawmakers voted to consider only one site—Yucca Mountain, about 20 miles west of the dump for less radioactive nuclear waste in Beatty. The state's leaders and pundits protested this "Screw Nevada" bill, which they ascribed to the state's lack of political clout.
Around that time, Nevada created a new state agency to deal with nuclear issues and a state commission charged with warding off nuclear waste. A bevy of new state laws made it harder for federal officials and private contractors to obtain and pay for licenses needed for work on Yucca Mountain, and the state filed numerous lawsuits.
Senator Harry Reid, a Democrat first elected in 1986, crusaded against the measure. So did his Nevada colleagues in Congress.
To make their case, Nevadans pointed out the safety risks in moving nuclear waste along highways and railroads to their state, and how terrorists might take advantage of that opportunity. They cheered when a "West Wing" episode zeroed in on these dangers.
Reid eventually moved up through Senate ranks as one of the nation's most powerful lawmakers, serving as the majority and minority leader. When former President Barack Obama took office and had to depend on Reid's help, he ended funding for Yucca Mountain.
What to Expect This Time
Obama and Reid are no longer calling any shots, and Nevada's congressional delegation is more junior than it's been in decades. The overwhelming bipartisan vote in the House suggests that Democrats may be less interested in protecting Nevada than they were when Reid had so much power in the Senate.
But Heller is up for re-election this year, and his is one of the few Republican Senate seats that Democrats feel confident that they can win in the 2018 mid-terms.
If Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell decides that enabling Heller to claim that he saved Nevada from hosting the nation's nuclear waste will help re-elect him, protecting the GOP's slim majority, I think Yucca Mountain will be dead again. At least for the moment.
The Cold War’s Toxic Legacy: Costly, Dangerous Cleanups at Atomic Bomb Production Sites https://t.co/ZO870QjaQ2… https://t.co/0xBT122ZHJ— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1520266520.0
Reposted with permission from our media associate The Conversation.
By Dylan Sullivan
Nevada's renewable portfolio standard requires electricity providers like NV Energy to buy a minimum amount of electricity from renewable sources like solar, geothermal and wind. Assembly Bill 206, sponsored by Assemblyman Chris Brooks, would increase the renewable standard so that it requires electricity providers to get 40 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2030.
The bill would drive capital investment in Nevada, create jobs, and reduce the state's over-dependence on a natural gas, a fossil fuel with a lot of price risk. It is moderate. It reflects a lot of changes—compliance flexibility requested by NV Energy, energy storage provisions requested by gaming, reducing the 2030 requirement from 50 percent to 40 percent, removal of the original 80 percent by 2040 renewable energy goal.
Having passed the Assembly and Senate—the former with three Republicans, the latter on a party-line vote—it will arrive on the governor's desk later this week.
Renewable energy is now cheap; solar should be at heart of Nevada's electricity grid
Utility-scale solar is now the cheapest way to serve Nevada's energy needs. Between 2008 and 2016, the cost of electricity from new solar and wind farms fell by 83 percent and 71 percent, respectively. Nevadans will soon receive electricity from the Techren solar project in Boulder City for the low, low price of 3.4 cents per-kilowatt hour. Customers of Tucson Electric Power will soon benefit from a solar project that produces electricity for three cents per-kilowatt hour.
At these prices, new solar is comparable in cost to ongoing costs to fuel and operate Nevada's natural gas-fired power plants, and much lower than the cost of building and operating a new gas plant. Prices for solar are especially low right now because of the Investment Tax Credit, which is phasing out and is only available for projects that start construction before December 31, 2021.
The smartest people in the utility sector now refer to "base-cost" renewables: solar and wind power are so cheap that they should be placed at the heart of the electricity grid, the same way "baseload" power plants once were.
Nevada's current plan: natural gas, forever
Without an increase to the renewable portfolio standard, Nevada will never get to this clean, abundant, cheap renewable energy future. The state currently relies on natural gas for 73 percent of its electricity production, and sent $700 million out-of-state to buy natural gas for its power plants in 2015. Under current plans, NV Energy will still be getting 72 percent of its electricity from natural gas in 2025 and 64 percent in 2030.
Contrast this with NV Energy's utility siblings. NV Energy is owned by Berkshire Hathaway Energy, which also owns Pacificorp and MidAmerican. In Oregon, Pacificorp championed a bill that will require it to meet 50 percent renewable energy by 2040. In Iowa, MidAmerican touts its forthcoming ability to serve 89 percent of customer demand with renewable energy.
In our modelling of the impact of a 50 percent by 2030 portfolio standard—more ambitious than the current proposal—we found that a renewables- and efficiency-focused grid would cause de minimis changes in bills if natural gas prices remain flat, and lower 2030 electricity bills by three percent if natural gas prices increase.
Raising the portfolio standard would increase capital investment in the state, and replace some natural gas electricity with cheap renewables
Increasing the portfolio standard will also increase capital investment in Nevada. Based on our modelling, I estimate an amended 40 percent standard will lead to capital investment of around $1.7 to $1.8 billion between now and 2030. This investment in Nevada's solar, geothermal and battery storage resources will create jobs, adding to Nevada's clean energy sector.
With Nevada's sunshine, and the low, low cost of solar electricity these days, it makes no sense for the state to serve daytime electricity needs primarily with natural gas. Increasing the portfolio standard would reduce this reliance, cutting emissions and lowering risks for utility customers.
NV Energy has consistently been "neutral" on Assembly Bill 206, and the Nevada Resorts Association has consistently been opposed.
"Nevada already gets lots of free solar from California"
AB 206 opponents vastly overstate the amount of very-low-cost solar Nevada can get from California: it's not nearly enough to serve a major portion of Nevada demand or take the place of a renewable portfolio standard. Based on CAISO data, I estimate that in calendar year 2016, Nevada received very-low-cost electricity equivalent to the output of a 37 MW solar array, just seven percent of NV Energy's currently installed utility-scale solar capacity. Nevada's share of very-low-cost electricity from California will get smaller as more power companies connect to the market where NV Energy can get this very-low-cost electricity.
The only way Nevada would not continue to take advantage of the small amount of very-low-cost-electricity it gets from California is if Nevada itself develops enough solar to exceed its electricity demands. But that is not close to happening under AB 206. Even on one of Nevada's lowest-load days, Jan. 1, the output of the total utility-scale solar on the grid would be a couple thousand megawatts lower than demand. Even on a day like May 9, when load is still relatively low (people are not yet using a lot of air conditioning at that time of the year), and there is a lot of sunlight, Nevada would not be close to saturating its grid with solar.
"Grid support requirements"
The Resorts Association worries that increasing the portfolio standard would cause "grid support requirements" to increase. It would not. One silver lining of Nevada's reliance on natural gas—the other is that it is better than relying on coal—is that natural gas plants are good at quickly ramping-up or -down to meet load; they can quickly ramp down when the sun rises and up again when the sun sets. Grid support requirements only become a concern when a grid is saturated with variable resources. Even with the amount of solar developed under AB 206, Nevada will be far from this point.
"More solar is not needed"
The Resorts Association also worries that increasing the portfolio standard will result in Nevada building power plants it does not need. They take a limited view of need. NV Energy needs to replace the coal-fired North Valmy Generating Station. Nevada is very exposed to natural gas rises, and it has an opportunity to buy very cheap insurance against that possibility. Nevada does need to put more of its people to work, reduce emissions and restore its clean energy leadership.
It seems to only take those two words to end conversations about raising the portfolio standard this legislative session. It should not.
First: voters voted for more clean energy when they approved question three. Given everything that was happening in the state in 2016—net metering and the Yes on 3 campaign, which was sold to voters with "sunshine and windmills," often pictured together—voters could have reasonably expected their vote would be used to increase clean energy, not keep things the same.
Second: renewable portfolio standards and retail choice are compatible. In fact, we know exactly the framework we will need: a renewable portfolio standard that applies equally to all providers of electric service. That is the policy that all states with retail choice use. The text of the Energy Choice Initiative presupposes this policy: "Nothing herein shall be construed to invalidate Nevada's public policies on renewable energy, energy efficiency and environmental protection or limit the Legislature's ability to impose such policies on participants in a competitive electricity market." The Energy Choice campaign agreed to a "statement of principles" that included a strong, 80 percent by 2040 renewable energy goal.
So from this, and the strong track record of renewable portfolio standards, it should be a given that Nevada will continue to have a standard in the future, and that it will apply to all competitive suppliers.
Why should energy choice prevent us from increasing the portfolio standard now?
With the amended ramp-rate and NV Energy's giant bank of old credits, the bill would only require 380 megawatts of new solar development between now and the implementation of Energy Choice in 2023. Because of the Investment Tax Credit, falling prices and Nevada's strong resources, the contracts for this solar will likely be made at prices in the three cents per-kilowatt hour range. Rather than being a burden, they will be the lowest-cost resources in Nevada's electricity portfolio. If and when Energy Choice is implemented, the cost of them can be straightforwardly rolled into the already-necessary transition charge. They will continue to provide customers with cheap electricity, and renewable energy credits for providers, long after Energy Choice is implemented.
Going forward, Nevada absolutely needs policy to ensure competitive suppliers get a minimum amount of electricity from renewable sources. Every other state with retail competition does this. So what is the problem with setting this amount now?
The arguments against Assembly Bill 206 dissolve under scrutiny.
The bill drives capital investment, creates jobs and reduces the state's over-dependence on a fossil fuel with a lot of price risk. It is moderate and reflects a lot of changes.
Governor Sandoval: AB 206 deserves your signature. Please sign it.
Dylan Sullivan is a senior scientist for Natural Resources Defense Council's energy program.
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By David Pomerantz
The Nevada Assembly passed a bill Wednesday that would dramatically increase the growth of renewable energy in the state, but Sheldon Adelson, the casino magnate and major donor to Donald Trump, is attempting to prevent the bill from becoming law.
The bill, AB 206, would ensure that Nevada gets 80 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2040. AB 206 passed the assembly with bipartisan support by a margin of 30 to 12, but it must now pass the Senate and be signed by Gov. Brian Sandoval.
Adelson owns the Las Vegas Sands casino giant, and is known in national political circles for the massive amounts of money he has plowed into Republican coffers; he spent $100 million in the 2012 election cycle, and then donated $35 million to the super PAC that supported Donald Trump's general election campaign last year, plus another $5 million to Trump's inauguration.
Given Adelson's support for conservative politicians, clean energy supporters considered it a happy coup in 2016 when the Sands Corporation threw money behind a ballot initiative that would allow electric customers to defect from the monopoly utility NV Energy.
Sands was the biggest bankroller of the committee that backed the ballot initiative, Nevadans for Affordable, Clean Energy Choices. The company didn't shy away from saying that their support for the initiative was motivated by a desire to use electricity from cleaner sources than NV Energy had on offer, garnering it fawning press in Nevada and globally.
"… The company maintains a strong desire to purchase and use the cleanest and most cost efficient energy available on the open market," a Sands spokesperson said in a statement about its support for the ballot initiative.
Adelson Pulls a Bait and Switch on Renewable Energy
Now, however, it's clear that while Adelson may want Sands to have the ability to defect from NV Energy, his motives were not as green as advertised last year.
Sands testified last month against AB 206, along with Wynn Resorts and the Nevada Resort Association (NRA). Why would Adelson, who spent all of 2016 saying that he wanted Sands to power with renewable energy, now be lobbying against legislation to move Nevada in that very direction?
The answer is likely that the bill language not only holds NV Energy to the increased renewable energy standard, but also any companies that defect from the utility, which could soon be Sands.
Adelson seems to want to maintain his company's unfettered ability to buy not only renewable energy, but also as much natural gas as he wants, for as long as he wants, as well.
"We feel that this just isn't the time to codify these mandates," Sands lobbyist Chase Whittemore said about the bill, according to the Nevada Independent. NV Energy also fought the bill, introducing unsuccessful amendments to neuter it.
Is Adelson Funding a New Dark Money Group to Kill Nevada Renewable Energy Growth?
The lobbying against AB 206 by Sands, Wynn, the Resort Association and NV Energy did not seem to slow down the bill's progress in the assembly, but the casino operators and NV Energy may have another trick up their sleeves: a new dark-money group is making a final two-week push to kill the bill in the Senate or on Gov. Sandoval's desk. The Independent reported this week:
"A new nonprofit that does not disclose its donors plans to spend six figures in the last two weeks of the Legislature to try to defeat a renewable energy measure opposed by most gaming companies."
The non-profit, called "Secure Nevada's Future," registered with Nevada as a non-profit organization in April, listing Texas as its qualifying state. Its list of officers is due May 31. The group seems to have a Facebook page which also became active in April.
As long as Secure Nevada's Future refuses to disclose its donors, it's impossible to know if Adelson, Wynn, NV Energy or some other mystery opponents of increased renewable energy is funding the effort, but longtime Nevada political reporter Jon Ralston wrote that "it's a reasonable assumption that major businesses are funding the operation."
Ralston reported that the one person publicly associated with the group as its executive director, Chris Young, used to work for Chris Carr while at the RNC; Carr now runs Wynn's political operation. Carr had previously run a non-profit, "Engage Nevada" that received significant funding from Adelson personally, as well as from NV Energy.
Conflict of Interest Among Nevada Resort Association Lobbyists
While Adelson's Sands Corporation tries to kill the strong renewable energy standard, another casino company, the MGM Grand Corporation, has actually shown that its commitment to renewable energy is more than just greenwashing. The company came out publicly in support of AB 206 earlier this week.
Like Wynn and Sands, MGM Grand is a member of the Nevada Resort Association—more than 10 of its properties are named as NRA member resorts, and MGM is listed on the NRA's board, along with Wynn.
But despite MGM's support for renewable energy growth, the NRA has sided with Wynn, Sands and NV Energy. The internal politics that drove that decision aren't public, but it's possible that some conflicts of interest among the NRA's lobbyists may be a contributing factor.
Carson City is a small town, and lobbyists commonly represent multiple interests, but a review of lobbyists for NV Energy, MGM Grand, Wynn, Sands, the NRA and Caesars revealed that the only overlap was between NV Energy and the NRA, and that overlap was significant: Of 12 lobbyists listed for NV Energy, seven are also lobbyists for the NRA. Those lobbyists are Morgan Baumgartner, Pete Ernaut, Greg Ferraro, Lorne Malkiewich, Nivk Vassiliadis, Nicole Willis-Grimes and Paul Young.
Lawmakers in California and Massachusetts have recently introduced bills that would require their respective states to get all of its electricity from renewable energy sources.
California Senate leader Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles), who introduced SB 584 last Friday, would require the Golden State to have a carbon-free grid by 2045. It would also accelerate the state's current goal of hitting 50 percent renewables by 2030 to 2025.
Thank you California Senate leader @kdeleon for your proposal to shift to 100% #cleanenergy for all of CA.… https://t.co/mLJfC5moCr— Leonardo DiCaprio (@Leonardo DiCaprio)1487798552.0
De León actually helped pushed through the initial 50 percent by 2030 law two years ago, but as he told the Los Angeles Times the legislation did not go far enough.
"We probably should have shot for the stars," he said.
As InsideClimate News noted, California is already well on its way:
"The California Energy Commission says the state got about 27 percent of its electricity from renewables last year, slightly better than the 25 percent required by law. Capacity has more than doubled over the past decade. California's largest utilities have also said they are ahead of schedule for meeting their 2020 goal."
Massachusetts legislators have also announced similar clean energy efforts. HD.3357 and SD.1932 was introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Sean Garballey and Marjorie Decker and in the Senate by Sen. Jamie Eldridge.
The measure would require Massachusetts to get all of its electricity from renewable sources by 2035. All of its energy needs, including heating and transportation, would have to come from renewable sources by 2050.
So far, the only state that has an official 100 percent renewable energy standard is Hawaii. Hawaii's aggressive clean energy mandate—requiring the state's electricity to come from renewable sources no later than 2045—was enacted back in 2015.
Hawaii Enacts Nation's First 100% Renewable Energy Standard http://t.co/z45mUzrpAS @clean_energy @Good_Energy— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1434074467.0
Many renewable-energy loving states—as well as town and city governments—are ramping up their clean energy goals in spite of the federal government's favoritism of fossil fuels and indifference towards fighting climate change.
This month, Nevada assemblyman Chris Brook introduced a bill to ramp up the state's renewable portfolio standard to 80 percent by 2040. Nevada's current standard calls for 25 percent by 2025.
Transitioning to 100 percent clean energy is not as far-fetched as it seems.
Last year, The Solutions Project team published a study explaining how each state can replace fossil fuels by tapping into renewable resources available in each state such as wind, solar, geothermal, hydroelectric, and even small amounts of tidal and wave power.
The Solutions Project
The authors found that converting the nation's energy infrastructure into renewables is ideal because it helps fight climate change, saves lives by eliminating air pollution, creates jobs in the rapidly booming renewable energy sector and also stabilizes energy prices.
"It is now established that such a transition is possible state by state and country by country," Jacobson commented to EcoWatch in December.
Also, as USA TODAY pointed out from a University of Texas at Austin study, wind turbines and big solar farms are the cheapest sources of new electricity generation across much of the U.S. Certainly in sun-soaked California, where solar is the cheapest form of energy in much of the state.
I had the chance to take a deeper dive with Jacobson via email on Wednesday. He took the time to answer these following questions:
What do you say to the critics who say it is not feasible for California, Massachusetts (or any other state) to get to 100 percent clean energy?
Jacobson: They speak without having every studied the issue or examined the numbers, including the ability to keep the grid stable or the costs of energy.
What are some of the specific benefits for California and Massachusetts if they transition to clean energy?
Jacobson: Create more net long-term jobs than lost, stabilize energy prices because the fuel costs of wind and solar are zero, reduce the costs of energy since onshore wind and large-scale solar are the least expensive forms of new energy in the U.S. today, eliminate 13,000 air pollution deaths and hundreds of thousands of illnesses in California alone saving 3 percent of the GDP, reduce terrorism and catastrophic risk because of the more distributed nature of the grid and reduce dependence on foreign energy.
What are some of the biggest obstacles (i.e. technology, politics, fossil fuel industry) for states to get to 100 percent clean energy?
Jacobson: Lack of information and people with a financial interest in the current infrastructure. Once people have full information about the transition and its benefits, most are likely to support the transition. Ninety percent of the blockade to faster progress is due to individuals and companies that have a financial interest in the current infrastructure thus profit over it not happening.
Are you working with any of the legislators who have proposed these 100 percent clean energy bills? If so, who? And, what role is The Solutions Project playing in helping states advance renewable energy policies?
Jacobson: We provide information to all parties who request it, thus our goal is not partisan. It is purely to help facilitate the healthiest and cleanest future for Americans and the world.
How do you feel about President Trump and his administration's pro-fossil fuel agenda? Does it make the push to 100 percent clean energy harder?
Jacobson: The transition will occur regardless of what President Trump wants or does because costs are favorable and most people want healthy air and lower energy prices, and see all the benefits in terms of jobs, price stability, health and security that clean, renewable energy provides.
Elon Musk's Master Plan to accelerate the world's transition to sustainable energy is becoming reality. Tesla and Panasonic have officially kicked off the mass production of lithium-ion battery cells at the massive Gigafactory outside Sparks, Nevada.
Battery Cell Production Begins at the Gigafactory https://t.co/xrFl4tChBx— Tesla (@Tesla)1483546847.0
Tesla's highly vaunted Gigafactory is currently being built in phases so that the company and its partners can manufacture products while the building continues to expand. Construction is expected for completion by 2018, at which point the Gigafactory stands to claim the title of world's largest building by footprint.
According to Electrek, "Tesla aims for the Gigafactory to become the biggest building in the world by footprint at 5.8 million square feet and second largest building in the world by total square footage of over 13 million."
Tesla touts that its current structure already has a footprint of 1.9 million square feet, which houses 4.9 million square feet of operational space across several floors.
"And we are still less than 30 percent done," the firm adds.
Not only that, as EcoWatch reported in July, the enormous building will be powered 100 percent by renewables such as solar, wind and geothermal, and will feature energy-storage technology. The company also plans for the building to achieve net zero energy.
Should mention that Gigafactory will be fully powered by clean energy when complete & include battery recycling— Elon Musk (@Elon Musk)1469639997.0
Once it reaches full capacity, the Gigafactory will produce 35 GWh/year of lithium-ion battery cells annually, which is "nearly as much as the rest of the entire world's battery production combined."
Tesla built the Gigafactory in order to fast-track a cleaner, more sustainable future.
"With the Gigafactory online and ramping up production, our cost of battery cells will significantly decline due to increasing automation and process design to enhance yield, lowered capital investment per Wh of production, the simple optimization of locating most manufacturing processes under one roof, and economies of scale," the company explained in the blog post.
"By bringing down the cost of batteries, we can make our products available to more and more people, allowing us to make the biggest possible impact on transitioning the world to sustainable energy."
Elon Musk: Tesla Battery Will 'Fundamentally Change the Way the World Uses Energy' http://t.co/vjWsbkX4AX @Act4Renewables @Ecofys— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1430604917.0
Tesla said that bringing cell production to the U.S. will create thousands of American jobs.
"In 2017 alone, Tesla and Panasonic will hire several thousand local employees and at peak production, the Gigafactory will directly employ 6,500 people and indirectly create between 20,000 to 30,000 additional jobs in the surrounding regions," the company said.
The race to build the world's largest solar power plant is heating up. California-based energy company SolarReserve announced plans for a massive concentrated solar power (CSP) plant in Nevada that claims to be the largest of its kind once built.
The 110 MW Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Plant near Tonopah, Nevada was the first utility-scale facility in the world to feature advanced molten salt power tower technology. The developer wants to build 10 more of these at an undisclosed location in Nevada. SolarReserve
SolarReserve CEO Kevin Smith told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that the $5 billion endeavor would generate between 1,500 and 2,000 megawatts of power, enough to power about 1 million homes. That amount of power is as much as a nuclear power plant, or the 2,000-megawatt Hoover Dam and far bigger than any other existing solar facility on Earth, the Review-Journal pointed out.
"It's a big project," Smith told the publication. "It's an ambitious project."
The $5B Sandstone project would create enough energy for 1 million homes https://t.co/0OBKK8mq3F— Las Vegas RJ (@Las Vegas RJ)1476280803.0
SolarReserve's Sandstone project involves at least 100,000 mirrored heliostats that capture the sun's rays and concentrates it onto 10 towers equipped with a molten salt energy storage system. The molten salt, heated to more than 1,000 degrees, then boils water and creates a steam turbine that can drive generators 24/7.
Compared to photovoltaic arrays, the appeal of CSP systems is that solar power can be used after sunset.
SolarReserve already operates a CSP plant near Tonopah, a revolutionary 110-megawatt Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Plant that's now powering Nevada homes. The company says on its website that this "completely emission free" CSP plant runs without the requirement for natural gas or oil back up.
World’s First 24/7 Solar Power Plant Powers 75,000 Homes https://t.co/9Bm2fBBOgR @pvmagazine @votesolar— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1466473810.0
"Energy storage provides a firm, reliable electricity product on-demand, day and night," SolarReserve says, adding that the plant "helps meet growing demand for clean, renewable energy sources."
Smith told the Review-Journal that Sandstone construction probably won't begin for another two or three years. Once construction begins, Smith estimated the project should create about 3,000 jobs for about seven years.
He said the company will also have to build a new transmission infrastructure to carry the energy to market, and the generated power will likely will be "exported to the California market."
SolarReserve is narrowing down project sites for its 6,500-hectare project. Smith said two potential sites on federal land in Nye County have been shortlisted. However, as NPR reported, environmentalists such as Solar Done Right's Janine Blaeloch are concerned about the environmental impact of such a project.
"It transforms habitats and public lands into permanent industrial zones," she told the radio station.
The Nevada Supreme Court unanimously ruled against a ballot referendum, which could have rolled back a controversial December 2015 regulator decision that lowered payments to rooftop solar customers. The ruling means that the referendum will not be voted on by the public in November.
Backed by Elon Musk's SolarCity, the referendum was challenged in court by Warren Buffett-owned NV Energy, in many ways reflecting the net-metering battle taking place across the country. There is still a proposal to grandfather in rooftop solar customers who bought or applied for systems before Dec. 31, 2015, allowing them payments at the original rates. The proposal will be decided upon by Nevada's Public Utilities Commission.
For a deeper dive: