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Iowa wind boom highlights transformation in Midwest

The U.S. power grid is undergoing an extreme makeover from the hulking power plants that generate most of the electricity all the way down to tiny meters attached to millions of homes. And the nation's midsection is no exception.

From new, sprawling wind farms to thousands of rooftop solar arrays and miles of new high-voltage transmission lines needed to help keep the lights on, the evolution of the Midwest electric system was the focus of an all-day meeting Friday in Des Moines, Iowa.

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The US is actually leading the way on clean energy

Of all the countries in the world, the United States invested the second-most on renewable energy in 2015. Only China outspent us.

American investments reached $44 billion last year, up 17% over 2014. (That figure includes investments from both private companies and government entities.)

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EPA Chief: U.S. Quickly Phasing Out Coal For Clean Energy

he top official at the Environmental Protection Agency said Friday the ongoing legal fight over regulating carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants won't delay the nation's accelerating shift to cleaner sources of energy.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy spoke at Climate Action 2016, a conference in Washington on efforts to curb global warming. Seeking to reassure her international audience, McCarthy said the United States will absolutely meet its obligations to cut carbon emissions as agreed to in the landmark climate treaty signed in Paris last December.

"Over the last decade the U.S. has reduced more carbon pollution than any other nation in the world, and we are going to continue that pace," McCarthy said. "While people are really worried that momentum may wane, that is not the case."

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Don't Know What The Clean Power Plan Is? Let's Fix That

The Clean Power Plan may be the centerpiece of the Obama administration’s plan to combat climate change, but most Americans don’t know much about it, according to a survey released this week by the University of Maryland’s Program for Public Consultation. Almost 70 percent of respondents said they’d heard “little or nothing” about the regulation, which means they’ve missed out on the more than 700 stories we’ve published on the Clean Power Plan over the past two years.

Here’s a high-level overview of what you need to know about this major EPA initiative, as well as some links to past coverage if you want to go down a wonky climate rabbit hole.

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Red States Are Leading the Way in Renewable Energy

Wind turbines and solar panels accounted for more than two-thirds of all new electric generation capacity added to the nation’s grid in 2015, according to a recent analysis by the U.S. Department of Energy. The remaining third was largely new power plants fueled by natural gas, which has become cheap and plentiful as a result of hydraulic fracturing.

It was the second straight year U.S. investment in renewable energy projects has outpaced that of fossil fuels. Robust growth is once again predicted for this year.

And while Republican lawmakers in Washington have fought to protect coal-fired power plants, opposing President Barack Obama’s efforts to curtail climate-warming carbon emissions, data show their home states are often the ones benefiting most from the nation’s accelerating shift to renewable energy.

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New Report: 85,000 New Yorkers Work in Clean Energy

More than 85,000 New Yorkers work in clean energy at more than 7,500 business establishments, according to Clean Jobs New York, a new analysis released this week by the national nonpartisan business group Environmental Entrepreneurs (an NRDC affiliate) and other partners from across the state.

That’s more than the number of New York state residents who are employed in investment banking, bars, and motor vehicle parts manufacturing—combined.

Clean energy workers can be found in nearly every New York congressional and state legislative district. They make buildings in Manhattan more energy efficient, manufacture solar panels in the Buffalo-Niagara Falls area, and install wind farms in rural Central New York.

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4 drivers of solar growth utilities need to know

The solar sector saw record breaking growth in 2015 and thus far, it appears that growth will carry over through 2016.

That’s according to a joint report from GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association, titled “Solar Market Insight 2015 Q4.” In 2015, the United States solar sector installed 7,260 MW of solar PV in 2015, the largest annual total ever and 16% above 2014.

To further underscore the growth, solar accounted for 29.4% of all new U.S. generation capacity last year, second only to wind and ahead of natural gas, according to a December report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Of that number, utility-scale solar added 4 GW of new capacity, a 6% gain from 2014.

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Here Comes The Next Huge Wave Of Solar Panels

The solar industry is booming. The millionth set of solar panels in the United States was installed sometime in the last two months, and industry leaders expect the number of solar-powered systems to double within two years.

That’s a huge deal, experts say. While solar still only makes up 1 percent of the country’s energy mix, the swift rise in solar capacity portends a bright future for an energy source that, less than 10 years ago, a leading solar tech scientist dismissed as “green bling for the wealthy.”

Just 30,000 residential solar installations dotted the country a decade ago. Since then, the cost of generating power from solar has dropped by over 70 percent. Falling production costs, combined with improvements in electricity storage and a decline in the number of coal-fired power plants, has fueled the industry’s breakneck growth, according to Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association.

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A Top Utility Regulator Talks About How to Prepare California for 50% Renewable Energy

As California looks to get half its electricity from renewables by 2030, energy regulators in the state have never been busier.

Among the many pressing issues facing the California Public Utilities Commission this year: how to share data between utilities and distributed energy providers; how to allow utilities to rate-base distributed energy assets like storage, rooftop solar and electric-vehicle chargers; how to design new dynamic rates to shift demand and avoid cost-shifting; and whether to allow third parties to deploy infrastructure-as-a-service models in place of traditional generation, transmission and distribution build-out.

So are regulators prepared to address all these issues?

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