FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享PV Magazine:American Electric Power (AEP), one of the United State’s largest power companies and one that owns a disproportionate share of coal assets, announced that it will invest $1.8 billion in new renewable energy projects during the 2018-2020 timeframe. This is nearly five times the company’s current investment in renewable energy generation by dollar value.This $1.8 billion will represent around 10% of the company’s planned capital outlays during the period, 72% of which will go to its transmission and distribution businesses. While AEP still owns 60 power plants totaling 26 GW of capacity (47% of which is coal-fired generation), in the past 10 years the company has taken a sharp turn in strategy away from investing in generation towards its transmission and distribution.Details in an AEP press release and a conference presentation are sparse. But while it appears that most of this will be wind, among the 5.57 GW of renewable energy projects identified for completion through 2025 under to serve its regulated utility businesses the company is looking at 1.37 GW of solar.AEP has also revealed that among the $1.8 billion for renewables it plans to invest $1.3 billion in projects under power contracts. These investments will be split over its AEP Onsite Partners and AEP Renewables subsidiaries, with Onsite Partners owning distributed generation and selling the power to schools, municipalities, hospitals and other commercial and industrial customers. In addition to distributed solar, Onsite Partners plans to build and own both energy storage and substations.The capacity of wind and solar assets owned by these companies are much smaller at present, together representing investments of less than $400 million. AEP Onsite Partners holds 31 MW of solar in operation and 42 MW under construction, and AEP Renewables currently owns three utility-scale wind and solar projects totaling 116 MW. The latter includes the 62 MW Boulder Solar 2 project.AEP characterizes its approach to these contracts as looking to develop fully contracted assets with strong credit counterparties, with the aim of seeking long-term, predictable cash flows. This will include specific requirements on project returns, and what it calls a “measured” approach to project risks.More: AEP to invest $1.8 billion in renewables over the next three years American Utility Giant Earmarks $1.8 Billion for Renewable Generation
FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Wall Street Journal:It’s been a pretty good 18 months for the coal industry following the disastrous price crash of 2015, but on Tuesday miners got a big lump in their stockings.BHP, the world’s largest mining company, announced it is reconsidering it’s membership in the U.S. Chamber of Congress, a skeptic on the latest global climate deal brokered in Paris, and may quit the World Coal Association, the industry’s lobby group. BHP cited the WCA’s support for abandoning Australia’s proposed Clean Energy Target as one reason for its preliminary decision to bow out.BHP’s action is largely symbolic but it still smarts coming from one of the grande dames of the mining world. It also comes as Rio Tinto, BHP’s big rival down under, is rapidly selling down its coal assets.The move is, of course, partly about public relations. But big companies like BHP and Rio ultimately make their decisions based on the bottom line, and BHP’s latest move is another sign that the business case for coal as a power-generation fuel is rapidly weakening—despite efforts by the Trump and Turnbull administrations to prop it up.Nearly 20% of BHP’s earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (Ebitda) in fiscal year 2017 came from coal, and return on capital employed was a healthy 23%, higher than for all its other major commodities except iron ore. But most of that juice comes from metallurgical coal—used to make steel—and not thermal coal for power generation. BHP estimates that every $1 change in met coal prices will move its 2018 Ebitda by $43 million, compared with $18 million for every equal change in thermal coal price.Both types of coal, like most commodities, have done well in the past two years—roughly doubling in price since the end of 2015. But their outlooks are radically different. Large quantities of met coal will be needed for the foreseeable future for steel production, and good alternatives are lacking. Thermal coal, on the other hand, must compete for power-sector market share in a world awash in cheap natural gas and ever cheaper renewables.More ($): The Climate for Coal Just Got Even Chillier WSJ: ‘The Climate for Coal Just Got Even Chillier’
FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Energy and Policy Institute:Arizona’s largest electric utility, Arizona Public Service, is back in front of regulators asking for its second rate increase in just over a year. In early September, Arizona Corporation Commissioners, the elected officials that regulates power companies in the state, heard testimony from APS and intervenors in a case regarding recently installed pollution control equipment at the Four Corners coal power plant. APS’s share of the total bill for the equipment and installation came to $400 million; the utility wants to have its customers pick up the tab. If the latest increase is approved, the plant will provide APS investors with not only a repayment of that expenditure, but also a tidy profit, while customers continue to foot the bill for an investment that environmentalists and consumer advocates warned would be unwise years ago. Those warnings have come true.At a time when utilities around the country were beginning to ditch their coal plants for economic reasons, APS wanted to invest. The utility convinced regulators to allow it to purchase a California utility’s interest in a coal plant. It was a decision that David Schlissel, now the director of resource planning analysis for the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), called “the only instance that I can recall where a utility is seeking to replace retired coal capacity with another aging coal facility.” Schlissel was testifying for the Sierra Club at the time, and is planning to release a report later this year about the power plant and its impact on customers’ bills.Six years later, it has become clear that APS ignored the warnings about its uneconomic investment. The company made the decision knowing full well that investors would be able receive a profit. “Adding to rate base is a way for utilities to increase their profits. Buying the additional interest in Four Corners made no sense. It was uneconomical for ratepayers. Adding the pollution control equipment is also uneconomical,” Schlissel said in an interview with the Energy and Policy Institute (EPI). “Four Corners has had no benefit. It’s a very expensive plant that is just going to become more expensive.”The purchase of Southern California Edison’s interest in the Four Corners plant was a result of lawmakers in California enacting legislation to limit global warming pollution from their electricity sector. After the enactment of Senate Bill 1368, California regulators at the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) ruled that Southern California Edison could not recover any money spent on the Four Corners plant from its customers if the investments would increase the life of the plant. The utility knew that it needed to invest in equipment at the plant to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions. Breathing air with high concentration of nitrogen oxide can lead to lung problems and can contribute to the development of asthma and other respiratory infections.APS was carefully watching the proceeding in California, and since Arizona didn’t have a global warming law, APS could take more ownership in the coal plant and force its customers to pay for any investments at the plant. That would generate a profit for APS investors. Indeed, only months after Southern California Edison agreed to sell to APS, in February 2011 an executive for the Arizona utility told a Goldman Sachs analyst that if the acquisition closes in the fourth quarter of 2012, then investors would get recovery in 2013; and, “it would be a matter of getting into service the following year or sometime after that” to get the profit for the pollution control equipment. James Hatfield, Chief Financial Officer for APS, estimated that return to arrive sometime after 2013.Immediately after the California PUC ruling, on November 8, 2010, Southern California Edison agreed to sell all of its 48% interest in units 4 and 5 of the Four Corners power plant to APS. The decision would make APS the majority owner of the two coal units that had opened in 1969 and 1970. Two weeks later, on November 22, APS opened a docket with the ACC to win their approval of the purchase. The docket lasted a year and a half, giving intervenors ample time to raise red flags about the project.More: Replacing coal with more coal: how Arizona Public Service’s Four Corners coal plant hurt customers, but earned investors profits On the blogs: APS coal strategy bad news for customers
Corporate buyers a major force behind renewable energy surge FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Bloomberg:Dozens of wind turbines each standing 260 feet tall spin in the breeze on the plains of Oklahoma, feeding electricity for a Google data center about 180 miles away.Worldwide, data centers like the Mayes County site outside Tulsa handle almost 32 quintillion bytes of information each day, according to Cisco Global Cloud Index. That’s the equivalent of streaming 32 billion hours of Netflix, and it makes big tech companies some of the fastest growing energy consumers.It’s also posing a dilemma for companies like Facebook Inc. and Google’s owner Alphabet Inc., whose data hordes are making them more prominent energy consumers at the same moment investors are increasing their scrutiny of their stewardship of the environment. The answer for them is increasingly to line up long-term contracts for green electricity, adding momentum to the shift away from fossil fuels.“We spend a lot of time chasing renewable energy to match our consumption,” said Neha Palmer, head of energy strategy at Google, which is owned by Alphabet. “We have 15 data centers that are live, and we’re building out more.”Rising power use is a reputational risk for the tech industry, since rising coal use to feed its server farms clashes with many company’s green ambitions. The incoming wave of data will only increase their energy use, and whatever powers those machines will have an impact on greenhouse-gas pollution.Google and its competitors are alive to that issue. At the Mayes County data center in Pryor, about 45 miles east of Tulsa, halls are lined with blinking servers behind glass doors. They’re transmitting and storing trillions of bytes of information every day from applications supporting Google, which is owned by Alphabet Inc. Those include Gmail and G-chat messages to photos and videos saved in Google Drive. The power comes from wind farms built by NextEra Energy Inc. and Chermac Energy Corp.More: From Google to Facebook, big data is driving green energy shift
Germany earmarks almost $45 billion to ease hardships of coal phaseout FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Xinhua:The German cabinet adopted plans on Wednesday to provide 40 billion euros (44.7 billion U.S. dollars) of financial support to federal states undergoing the structural changes needed for Germany to achieve its planned phase out of coal by 2038.According to the German government’s plans, detailed in a key issues paper, the government is aiming to develop the existing mining areas in East Germany as well as the Rhine region “into energy regions of the future”. Support would be provided to “particularly affected sites” of hard coal-fired power plants as well as the former lignite mining area of Helmstedt in Lower Saxony, according to the German government.“We are keeping our promise. The exit from coal must become an opportunity for the affected regions,” said German Minister of Economics and Energy Peter Altmaier, who presented the cornerstones.The German government “is ensuring clarity in the affected regions and creating long-term prospects with sustainable jobs for the local people,” Altmaier stated. “We are setting the course for the districts to develop into modern energy and economic regions. Now it is a matter of filling this concept with life together with the federal states, the municipalities and the local people,” the German economics minister emphasized.The German government will present a draft law implementing the energy policy recommendations of the coal commission in the second half of 2019. Around one third of Germany’s electricity is still generated from coal-fired power plants and at the end of January, a government commission agreed that Germany should phase out coal by 2038 at the latest.More: German gov’t to provide 40 bln euros to help finance structural change in coal regions
Our favorite web videos from the week that was:1. Rumbling Stumbling Bumbling BaldThe story of how a group of passionate climbers, the Access Fund, and the Carolina Climbers Coalition saved Rumbling Bald, a gneiss bouldering field in North Carolina.Rumbling Bald: Open Access from Access Fund on Vimeo.2. The Greatest GenerationFrank Moore is an American hero who landed at Normandy in 1944, a fly fishing legend, and at 90-years-old, still casts a fly like a boss. This is a teaser about making a feature documentary on Moore’s return to France to fish the rivers he could only briefly see, and not fish, while fighting Nazis. Inspiring stuff. When I told my own 90-year-old WWII vet grandfather about it, I asked him if he got in any fishing while ship hopping around the Pacific Theater teaching explosives engineering. His one word reply: “No.”Frank Moore: Mending the Line from Uncage the Soul Productions on Vimeo.3. ChompySome NSFW language here, but I’ll give this guy a pass. You will too after seeing the vid.BONUS SHARK VIDEOPursuing the Catch trailer from Cinematic Code on Vimeo.4. Hope to Feel This Way in My Lifetime, About AnythingThis video features Aleksander Gamme on day 86 of his South Pole Exhibition as he reaches a food cache. You can turn on the captions for the translation, but that will only be useful until the :54 second mark, when the language becomes universal.5. Southern Smoke SmokedWe’ll wrap with another climbing video from the Red River Gorge. This kid is 13-years-old, Southern Smoke is 5.14c: you do the math. Have a great weekend!
“Behold, the land of Canaan.” According to legend, this was the exclamation made by fur trader George Casey Harness as he stood atop Cabin Mountain, W.Va. It was the mid-1700s, and as he gazed out at the sprawling wilderness of old growth spruce and laurel, he was reminded of the Old Testament’s Canaan, “the promised land of milk and honey.” In the eyes of an adventurous entrepreneur like Harness though, this Canaan Valley was much more than a land of milk and honey: it was the jackpot. Just a few years later, the Industrial Revolution would plant seeds of innovation and progress into the minds of men everywhere. For Canaan, that meant the loss of nearly every towering tree to saw and hatchet. The nearby town of Davis acquired the nickname “Stump Town” for the large swaths of land that, once shrouded by dense forest, now lay exposed, dotted with remnants of a former time.When the lumber industry all but died in the area, a new, and much more sustainable, means of revenue came to the valley: skiing. Tales of the region’s lengthy snow season had trickled throughout the East, and by the mid-1950s, the first commercial ski area in the South was established on Canaan’s Weiss Knob. Present-day Canaan Valley is now one of the most recognized ski destinations in the Southeast, bringing downhill, telemark, and cross-country skiers alike to the snow-capped peaks from mid-December often until as late as March.The locals in town will be the first to assure you that even if you spent a week in the valley, you wouldn’t be able to see everything the area has to offer. With the help of White Grass Touring Center owner Chip Chase and Jessica Scowcroft, spokesperson for the Tucker County Convention & Visitors Bureau, we have compiled a three-day Tour de Canaan that lets you experience the best of what this quiet West Virginia valley has to offer. In Canaan, timing is everything, so aim for January or February when the area usually has a steady amount of snowfall. We recommend making this trip during a three-day weekend when the night scene is as active as your daytime skiing. Be warned: with the exception of the resorts, most places only accept cash or check.Day 1Check in at Timberline Four Seasons Resort. Unlike typical resorts, Timberline is a quaint ski destination run by a close-knit community of powder lovers who are eager to show you down the slopes. Lodging is offered within steps of the lifts, making it easy to get up and get shredding early in the morning. If downhill is your thing, check out the Salamander run, a two-mile trail that drops 1,000 vertical feet. For the Nordic and cross-country crowd, get a one-way ticket to the top of the slopes and hit up the 17 kilometers of backcountry trails that take you into the backside of Dolly Sods Wilderness Area. From there you can take Forest Road 80 to the Cabin Mountain Trail and experience a view of the valley similar to what Harness must have seen nearly 200 years ago. The Cabin Mountain Trail heads back down the mountainside into Timberline’s neighbor, White Grass Touring Center. Be sure to pay your day fee for skiing on the White Grass trails before taking the Timberline Trail back to the resort.After skiing, head into the town of Thomas for a locally-sourced burger at Tip Top Café. Coffee shop by day, burger and beer joint by night, this unique hole-in-the-wall only serves burgers on Friday, but it’s well worth the visit. Top it off with a Moscow Mule made from ginger beer and Hellfire bitters. It’s refreshing with a kick.Chip Chase, Jess Daddio, and friends of BRO and White Grass enjoying the view from Weiss KnobDay 2After checking out of your room at Timberline, drive a few miles down the road to the Breakfast Nook. Grab a cup of coffee and one of their melt-in-your-mouth homemade biscuits before heading over to White Grass Touring Center. There you will likely get the chance to meet local legend and White Grass owner Chip Chase. For over 30 years, Chase has been exploring Canaan Valley by ski and knows the area’s cross-country ski scene best. If he’s free, get him to show you the way, but you can just as easily get around thanks to their impeccably maintained trails. Coded green, blue, and black for varying degrees of difficulty, the trails at White Grass weave up and down the mountainside and are dotted with warming huts stocked with woodstoves and snacks. The view from Weiss Knob is spectacular, but the exposed bald is windy so be sure to bring extra layers. Only plan on bringing one bottle of water so you can refill it along the way at the Fountain of Youth, one of the few mountain springs you’ll encounter along the way.When you return to the center, be sure to grab a meal at White Grass. Using mostly local, organic ingredients, the café features everything from hearty soups to veggie burgers. Since you’ve been burning off those calories on the slopes, you might as well treat yourself to a pitcher of nearby Mountain State Brewing Company’s beer while you’re at it. The Miner’s Daughter Oatmeal Stout is my favorite. Check in down the road at Canaan Valley State Park and stay at the campground, in a furnished cabin, or one of the luxurious rooms in the newly renovated lodge.Day 3On your last day in the area, you’ll have to decide between more downhill skiing or more cross-country skiing. Canaan Valley State Park has its own downhill ski area and the lodge offers shuttles to and from the lifts. The ski area is also home to the longest snow-tubing run on the East Coast, which makes for a great family activity. If you want to continue to explore the valley by cross-country ski, check out nearby Blackwater Falls State Park. Although the trails are not groomed specifically for cross-country skiing, you’ll only need a few inches of snow on the ground to cover the roots and rocks that litter the trail. The Blackwater Falls themselves are an easy roadside destination to hit on your way out of the park, and if you happen to still be in the valley come sunset, Lindy Point Overlook offers a great place to catch the view.Local LegendChip Chase is a man of small stature but enormous personality. You can read his 30+ years of ski experience in the weathered lines around his face. When he isn’t cracking a joke or singing a favorite Adele song, he’s giving you pointers on your step-step-turns and pizza wedges. His enthusiasm for both the sport and the area are contagious, and it’s nearly impossible to leave White Grass without a smile on your face. When asked what he likes most about his job, he says, “On the weekends, my staff runs the ski center, and all I do is hug people and I walk them to their cars,” a testament to his ability to make out-of-towners feel like family after just one visit.
Here’s the beautiful thing about craft beer: Brewers are never satisfied with “good” or even “great.” They’re always finding new ways to take their beers to “11.” Bourbon barrel aging, dry hopping, blending batches, resting porters on cocoa nibs…They’re always looking for ways to make good beer better.Take Oskar Blues’ Old Chub. It’s an excellent beer. Absolutely nothing wrong with it. A perfect example of a Scotch ale—malty, biscuity, and chocolatey without being too decadent. It’s a hell of a beer.But that wasn’t good enough for Oskar Blues, so this year, they introduced cans of Old Chub juiced with nitrogen.Nitrogen is basically a different way of adding carbonation to the beer, typically malt forward beers like stouts or porters. The addition of nitrogen adds a creamy element to the beer. Guinness is the most famous example of a beer that’s gassed with nitrogen.Oskar Blues put a nitrogen widget in each 16-ounce can of their Scotch Ale. Pop the top and the gas is released into the beer. That’s an over simplification of the process, but I’m an overly simple guy.This new, nitrogen Old Chub, is better than the traditional Old Chub. It goes to 11. Pour the beer into a glass and the bubbles do this crazy wave dance thing as they make their way up the side of the glass. The beer has a thick head that looks like you could tap dance on, but it’s actually as soft as cotton candy. The drink itself is as smooth as Billy D. Williams.It’s stupid creamy. I’d like to see more beers get the nitro treatment. I’m sure it’s expensive as hell, but the result is addictive. It’s like taking your typical stout or porter, and filtering it through the Shaft soundtrack. You know what I’m saying? Smooth, people. Smooth…
Want to know what someone who works in product development for one of the top camping/backpacking brands in the world carries in their pack for a weekend backpacking trip? Of course you do.A long-time resident of the Pacific Northwest, Chris Barchet literally grew up playing in the Cascades — his backyard and product testing haven. We tagged along with Barchet and Seattle’s Mountain Madness guide service for some peak bagging and product testing last week in the North Cascades along the Pacific Crest Trail.Here’s what we found out:“I began backpacking with the Boy Scouts adhering to their motto, ‘Be Prepared,’” said Barchet, category director, MSR Winter and Water Products. “My 50-60 pound pack had everything under the sun…just in case. Ten years ago I had the opportunity to hike the John Muir Trail, but carrying 50lbs for 200+ miles was not appealing. I did what I could on a budget – cut parts off our packs, made a Pepsi Can Stove, only brought a tarp (no tent) and sawed the handle off my tooth brush.”“With minimal expense I was able to drop over 20 pounds from my total pack weight and reached the summit of Mt. Whitney in under 12 days,” he said. “After that I evolved my backpacking gear to be very light by making my own pack, purchasing an ultralight sleeping bag, etc., until my gear weight was about 12 lbs.”“Now I take a more moderate approach. I want to maintain a reasonable level of comfort on the trail and at camp,” MSR’s Barchet explained further. “For each trip I carefully select the right balance of gear to make the whole adventure enjoyable. This might mean carrying a warmer tent if I’m going with my wife, or leaving the heavy rain parka at home if the forecast looks good.”“To keep things light I try to use each item for multiple purposes – like using my insulation layer as part of the sleep system. I rely on past trips as a guide for what to take and what to leave. At the end each trip I update my gear list with notes to make the next one even better,” he advises.The pack configuration shown here is for 2 nights, 2 people, based on a North Cascades climate and topography, approximately 10 miles/day, camping below tree line, with a dry and warm weather forecast, low bug season, and some scrambling. Adjust as necessary.Sleep System:MSR FlyLite Tent8 Carbon Core Stakes (these things are crazy light)Therma-Rest X-Therm, SmallTherma-Rest Navis Sleeping BagSealLine Cirrus 30L Dry SackWater:MSR AutoFlow Gravity FilterPlaty 2L BottleMSR AquaTabs (First Aid Kit)Food:MSR WindBoiler w/ 4-oz. Fuel CanisterSnack BagSealLine Cirrus 20L Dry Sack w/ Bear Line (not shown)Clothing:Down Jacket w/ HoodMSR Sport TuqueLight Rain JacketWool Long Sleeve ShirtEssentials:Map & CompassSunglasses & Sunscreen/Lip balmHeadlampKnifeLighterSpoonToothbrush & ToothpasteFirst Aid Kit (moleskin, bandaids, athletic tape, ibuprofen, gauze, anti-bacterial wipes)Duct TapeT.P. & Hand SanitizerMSR Swift 3 Trekking PolesLuxury Items:Flip FlopsCameraWearing (not shown):Trekking PantsWool T-ShirtBaseball CapHiking Boots & Wool Socks
I did something really strange and out of character for me the other day. I went for a hike. I spend a lot of time in the woods, mostly mountain biking, sometimes running, occasionally backpacking, but rarely am I just hiking. And yet there I was, in the Nantahala Gorge knocking out a brutal piece of the Bartram Trail that climbs roughly 80,000 feet in 2.5 miles. Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. But the trail was steep, weaving in and out of a narrow gulch cut by Ledbetter Creek. Supposedly, there’s good canyoneering on that creek, but I was solo so I stuck to the trail. I get spooked easily when I hike alone—my mind mulling over all of the different ways that I could die alone in the woods.Morbid, I know, but that’s the way my mind works, always visualizing the worst-case scenario. The fact that I saw two snakes on the trail within about 100 yards didn’t put me at ease. Okay, one of them was a baby snake, but the other snake was definitely…well, looking back on it, the other snake was probably just a really long centipede. But I was in a heightened emotional state, so I gave that vicious centipede a wide berth on the trail. Then I started thinking about snake bites, and whether or not I’d have the skills it takes to capture a poisonous snake after it bites me. Then I started thinking about poisonous spiders. And the return of the mountain lion to the Southern Appalachians. And packs of coyotes. And freak lightning storms. And bears. Shit, bears.Other than the bloody internal monologue that accompanied me the entire day, it was a beautiful hike. I took a picture of Bartram Falls, then booked it back down the trail, a thunderstorm chasing me the entire descent.Back in civilization (aka River’s End pub next to the N.O.C.) I comforted myself with the Sherpa Rice, a kitchen sink kind of dish, and a Dirty Girl Blonde from Nantahala Brewing Company. NBC has been around for a while now, operating out of a cool warehouse-like space next to the train tracks in downtown Bryson City. Their distribution must be small though, because I rarely see their beers up in Asheville. But I’m always happy to order a pint when I have the chance.Dirty Girl is a blonde ale that drinks as easy as those canned lagers you grew up with, but tastes way, way better. It’s crisp, but has a buttery kind of mouthfeel and comes in at an almost sessionable 5.75% ABV. In other words, it’s the perfect beer to settle the nerves after getting attacked by a nest of centipedes, er, poisonous snakes.