Report Unveils that U.S. Solar Industry Employs More People than Fossil Fuel Industry

by Genna Gores

The U.S. Department of Energy’s 2017 U.S. Energy and Employment Report, reveals that the renewable energy industry employs more people than the entire fossil fuel industry (including petroleum oil, natural gas, and coal). The report goes on to compare employment opportunities between 2015 and 2016 for all types of energy within the Electric Power Generation sector, which includes: solar, wind, geothermal, bioenergy, hydropower, nuclear, fossil fuels, and other generation/fuels. It is evident with this report that solar and other renewable energies are a rapidly growing industry with increasing employment opportunities for Americans. Continue reading

Big Goals for Small Islands: Hawaiian Legislation Promotes Renewable Energy in Transportation

by Siena Hacker

For such a small chain of islands, the state of Hawaii has the biggest renewable energy target in the United States. Hawaii introduced legislation that would fine utilities that are not completely powered by renewable energy by 2045. Now, as reported in a January 2017 New York Times piece by the Associated Press, the state is going a step farther by introducing legislation promoting a complete reliance on renewables for the transportation sector. [http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2017/01/19/us/ap-us-renewable-energy-transportation.html] With Hawaiians already owning an estimated one million cars – not to mention all of the cars for sale in dealerships – it would be imprudent for the state to mandate a shift to renewable fuels for the transportation sector. Hawaii is instead attempting to encourage the transition by increasing the number of required charging stations. The reasoning holds that as electric cars become cheaper and the infrastructure supporting them increases, investing in an electric car will become the practical choice. Continue reading

Federal Leasing of Gulf Waters for Fossil Fuels Meet Protests

by Max Breitbarth

While the United States publicly seeks to shift its energy usage to greener sources, a recent New Orleans federal auction—and the protests created in response—demonstrate that the United States is far from over its oil addiction. CNN’s John D. Sutter details the scene at an auction at New Orleans’ Superdome, where environmental protesters objected to the government’s lease of federal property in the Gulf of Mexico for fossil fuel development. Continue reading

Solar Jobs Explode In California

by Max Breitbarth

The Golden State is leading the United States’ push for more solar energy. Sammy Roth’s Desert Sun article summarizes a recent report from the nonprofit Solar Foundation, which notes that solar jobs are on the rise, and they are increasing the fastest in California.

According to the report, California’s solar jobs have increased almost 40 percent since last year. Their current number now exceeds 75,000 workers, more than enough to lead the country. Roth notes that California actually has more solar workers than the next ten states combined. Continue reading

Tidal and Wave Power Full of Promise in Scotland

by Erin Larsen

In the northeast-most corner of Scotland sits the future site of the world’s largest array of tidal turbines, undersea windmills turned by the waters. As the race to develop alternatives to fossil fuels continues to accelerate, ocean energy is a clean-tech holy grail. Now, with Scotland’s estimated $1.5 billion MeyGen turbine project under way, the promise of tidal energy has never been closer.

Once all the undersea cables are laid, substations are built, and 269 turbines are put in place, MeyGen will have a production capacity of 400 megawatts of power – enough to power 175,000 homes. The project is being overseen by Atlantis Resources. Continue reading

The Future in Community Solar

by Deedee Chao

Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) is the first of California’s major utilities to enhance community solar programs; customers who are unable to install their own solar panels will still be able to draw their electricity directly from solar sources. Named Solar Choice, customers can choose to pay a premium of approximately 3 cents per kilowatt-hour to have half or all of their electricity come from solar. This new program opens up a new market and was created in response to high demand: over half of PG&E’s customers responded to a survey, saying they wanted to go solar, but could not implement it themselves. Solar Choice is a streamlined process for customers to go from traditional power to renewables, without having to do any installations or solar contracts themselves. This allows for easy buy-in, participation, and support for renewables, all at the cost of a few cents per kilowatt-hour. This premium is extracted primarily to ensure that non-solar customers don’t pay extra for their electricity; this suggests that the more participation there is, the lower the premium will be, making solar more affordable as demand increases. Never before in California has the process of switching to solar been so painless. Continue reading

Energy Growth is More Renewable than Ever

by Max Breitbarth

A February 2016 Huffington Post article by Ben Walsh explores the profile of the new American energy projects in light of last December’s COP21 Paris climate agreement.

Walsh analyzes a recent report released by Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The report shows that 68% of new energy projects in the US are renewable. There are very few coal and oil projects, but the fossil fuel, natural gas, continues to make up a significant portion of new energy projects. Continue reading

For Wind Energy, Bigger May Actually Be Better

by Erin Larsen

A new design for offshore 50-megawatt (MW) collapsible wind turbine blades could help bring wind energy mainstream in the United States. Sandia National Laboratories was tasked with the challenge of designing a low-cost, offshore 50-MW turbine requiring a rotor blade more than 200 meters long. The research and development for the gigantic blades was funded by the Department of Energy’s ARPA-E program. These blades are two-and-a-half times longer than any existing wind blade and longer than two football fields.

The design of the huge blades is inspired by by the way palm trees move in storms. The “trunk” of the turbine features a segmented build with a cylindrical shells that bend at the joints in the wind, while still retaining segment stiffness. The turbines themselves are called Segmented Ultralight Morphing Rotors (SUMR). They are lightweight, flexible, and assembled in multiple segments. At dangerous wind speeds, the blades are stowed, while at lower wind speeds, the blades spread out more to maximize energy production. Continue reading

Google Makes New Clean Energy Purchases After Abandoning R&D Efforts

by Liza Farr

During the last few years, Google has had a roller coaster ride with clean energy. In 2007, they started their RERomm, Dec 4, 2014). In 2011, however, Google stopped this program completely, with the reasoning that they determined this effort would not actually reverse climate change, or make new renewable energy cheaper than existing coal. Critics argued that both of these goals are widely considered impossible, and chastised the company for ending the R&D program. Likely, Google realized with plummeting global renewable energy prices, there was more money to be made in renewable energy deployment than in research and development (Romm, Dec 4, 2014). Continue reading

Renewable Energy and Endangered Species

by Alexander Birk

As climate change continues to draw more attention, so does renewable energy. Creating completely clean energy to avoid emitting greenhouse gases seems like an unbeatable solution. However renewable energy projects often run into problems with the Endangered Species Act. Robbins (2014) claims that all renewable energy projects have one thing in common, they all destroy natural habitats and play a part in killing wildlife. (Robbins 2014) Continue reading