Effects of Utility Scale Solar Energy on Aquatic Ecosystems in the Southwest

 

by Melanie Paty

In a recent Environmental Management article, Grippo, Hayse, and O’Connor (2015) speculate on the potential detriments solar farm development imposes on temporary bodies of water and the wildlife that depend on them. The authors’ locational focus is the Southwestern United States, where there are more than 40 pending or approved solar development permits. Temporary bodies of water, either intermittent, “seasonally dry stream, especially during times of low rainfall or high heat,” or ephemeral, “defined as those that do not receive groundwater inputs and contain water only briefly and in direct response to precipitation,” play an important role in desert ecosystems: they connect the landscape, transport water and nutrients downstream, serve as the short-term habitat for animals with aquatic life stages and the reproductive site for various animals, and give rise to riparian corridors that provide a variety of benefits to local animal species. However, unlike permanent bodies of water, temporary water is not protected under the Clean Water Act, unless it is significantly connected to a permanent body of water. Continue reading

California’s Investment in Clean-Tech is Paying Off

by Melanie Paty

A recent article on Renewable Energy World by Bloomberg’s Mark Chediak and Miachel B. Marois proves that Governor Jerry Brown’s goal to “show that decarbonizing is consistent with economic abundance financial stability” is becoming a reality. Since Brown came to office in 1975, he has been pushing for policies that support green technology and today, California has the most ambitious renewable energy goals in the nation. Within the next 15 years, Brown has proposed increasing electricity supply by renewables from 30% to 50%, reducing petroleum use in cars and trucks by 50%, increasing energy efficiency of existing buildings by 200%, and putting 1.5 million zero emission cars on the roads. While most governments are hopping on the sustainability bandwagon in recent years, California’s early investment seems to be paying off. Continue reading

Changes in Clean Energy Investment in 2014: End of Year Recap

by Melanie Paty

On January 9th, 2015, Bloomberg New Energy Finance submitted a press release on the strong performance of clean energy investments in 2014. The overall investment in clean energy reached $310 billion, a 16% increase from 2013, but 2011 still holds the record at $317 billion. However, it was the biggest increase of new investment in clean energy since 2011. Government funded research and development increased 14% and corporate increased 15%. Private equity and venture capital investments increased 16%, but overall investment is still three times below 2008 levels. In terms of region, the most investment came from the United States, China, and Europe. European investment increased only 1% since 2013, but is still the highest at $66 billion. China increased a whopping 32% to $89.5 billion. Clean energy investment in the United States experienced a smaller increase of only 8% reaching $51.8, $15.5 billion of which went to utility scale asset finance. U.S. investment in solar increased by 39% whereas investment in wind decreased by more than 50%. India and Brazil both reached $7.9 billion in clean energy investments, an 88% increase for the former and a 14% increase for the latter. French investment increased by 26% due to the installation of Europe’s largest solar PV plant with 300MW capacity. Continue reading

Obama and Modi Negotiate Renewable Energy in India

by Melanie Paty

On January 25th, 2015, President Obama met with newly elected prime minister of India, Narendra Modi, primarily to discuss climate change. Ari Philips published an article for Think Progress that gives context for the negotiations and explains the climate conditions India is currently facing. The article cites staggering statistics about the urgency of pollution mitigation in India. Delhi is the most polluted city in the world with PM2.5 levels eight times higher than EPA approved levels and air pollution-related ailments contributing to 109,000 premature adult deaths per year. Delhi is not the only problem as India houses thirteen of the twenty most polluted cities. A chance to turn to a more sustainable path has opened with Modi taking office as he has increased India’s 2020 solar energy target by five times. The article sites Raymond Vickery who notes that this ambitious goal will be financially difficult for India as its new climate goals are estimated to require $100 billion in investments, much of which will need to come from private investors. Continue reading