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Apple Becomes a Green Energy Supplier, With Itself as Customer

PALO ALTO, Calif. — The words are stenciled on the front of the Apple Store, a glass box sandwiched between a nondescript Thai restaurant and a CVS pharmacy in downtown Palo Alto: “This store runs on 100 percent renewable energy.”

If Apple’s plans play out, it will be able to make that claim not only for its operations throughout California but also beyond, as the company aims to meet its growing needs for electricity with green sources like solar, wind and hydroelectric power.

Like other big companies before it, including Walmart and Google, Apple recently received a federal designation for its energy subsidiary that allows it to become a wholesale seller of electricity from coast to coast. In effect, Apple is creating its own green utility company, although the main customer is itself.

The motives may be economic as much as they are environmental. As a wholesaler, Apple could reduce the cost of its electricity load, which reached 831 million kilowatt-hours in the last fiscal year — enough to power about 76,000 homes for a year. But like a growing number of corporations, Apple is intent on reducing carbon dioxide emissions from electricity production — one of the biggest sources of greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.

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Obama Rule Could Take Wind Out of Renewable Power on Public Land

It was supposed to be the largest wind farm in North America, with 1,000 turbines spinning above 320,000 acres of southern Wyoming.

But after investing more than $50 million and nearly a decade seeking approval to build a wind farm on public lands, the Power Company of Wyoming’s landmark project is still tied up in required scrutiny of its environmental impact.

"We understood that this is a complex process," said the company’s vice president Roxane Perruso. "We did understand that it was going to be several years. We did not anticipate nine."

The Wyoming project is hardly an outlier. Although the Obama administration has given initial approvals to 46 wind and solar projects on 216,356 acres of public lands since 2009, just 15 are in operation. Others have been abandoned, are still being built or are undergoing years of required environmental analysis.

New Rule

The administration says it has a plan to cut through that red tape: a new rule, set to be imposed within weeks, that would encourage developers to bid on government-selected tracts with gusty winds and intense sunlight that are pre-cleared of major environmental conflicts. The rule could be a boon to Berkshire Hathaway Energy Co., First Solar Inc., Iberdrola SA and other companies that have their sights on public land, but developers are wary it will stifle development, putting them at odds with environmentalists who champion the plan.

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Offshore wind farm a green-energy milestone

The first offshore wind energy farm in the USA is up and nearly ready to go, marking a new chapter in the nation’s changing electricity grid.

Thursday, workers finished installing the last of five turbines off Rhode Island’s coast, a little more than a year after the Providence-based developer Deepwater Wind first put steel in the water.

“A lot’s happened over the last year,” said Jeff Grybowski, CEO of Deepwater Wind. “I feel like the industry has really turned the corner.”

As Grybowski spoke, a Norwegian ship called the Brave Tern and two other vessels mounted General Electric turbine nacelles — the housing for the generating equipment — on 270-foot towers in state waters 3 miles southeast of Block Island.

Now that all the turbines are installed, the next step is commissioning and testing the equipment, which will take several weeks.

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Colorado Springs Utilities missing conservation goal

Plans to close the coal-fired Martin Drake Power Plant are in question because Colorado Springs Utilities won’t meet its five-year conservation goal to cut energy demand by 12 percent.

Kenny Romero, manager of renewable energy, said the utility will have to find more ways to increase renewable energy sources.

“With all our programs, you still don’t get quite get to 12 percent. We would have to look deeper into other avenues outside the study results and existing program,” Romero said.

Jacquie Ostrom, who spent a year on Utilities’ Customer Advisory Group to help devise the five-year Electric Integrated Resource Plan, said other utilities have lower residential rates and still managed to make their goal of using at least 30 percent renewable energy sources.

Conservationist Lee Milner said reducing energy consumption is the best way to eliminate the need to add costly resources.

Utilities officials are also facing stronger federal emissions rules.

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Analysis Finds Wind Could Replace 6,000 Gigawatt-Hours of Coal in Colorado

In 2004, Colorado voters passed an initiative establishing, for the first time, a renewable energy standard (RES) through a popular vote. The legislative declaration for the initiative, Amendment 37, started with: “In order to save consumers and businesses money” and concluded with the idea that renewable energy should be developed to the “maximum practicable extent."

Colorado voters bet on the outcome of costs dropping for wind and solar energy as they were used more -- and it looks like the initiative’s promise is coming to fruition.

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Offshore wind farm completes construction

The nation’s first offshore wind farm completed construction Thursday when the final turbine blade was installed.

Jeff Grybowski, CEO of Deepwater Wind, tweeted about the milestone Thursday afternoon at the Block Island Wind Farm, which the company is building off the coast of Block Island in Rhode Island.

When the project starts operation later this year, it will be the first utility-scale offshore wind farm in the United States.

The $300 million Block Island project has five turbines with a total generating capacity of 30 megawatts — enough to power about 17,000 homes.

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California Has More Solar Power Than You Think—a Lot More

California has more solar power than any other state in the U.S. -- and that's always been the case.

Every summer, the California Independent System Operator issues a press release explaining that the state has hit another record for solar power generation. The most recent came in July, when CAISO reported that the state hit 8,030 megawatts of solar on July 12 at 1:06 p.m., almost 2,000 megawatts more than the previous summer.

With more solar panels being installed every day, new records are as predictable as the sunrise. But strangely, everyone gets the numbers wrong.

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Tesla's Chinese rival is spending $1.8 billion on an electric car factory

LeEco, the Chinese company looking to rival Tesla with its own electric car, said on Wednesday it would invest 12 billion yuan ($1.8 billion) to build an electric car plant in eastern China with eventual annual production capacity of 400,000 cars.

The company said in a statement its first China factory would be built in two phases in Deqing county near the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou.

Non-automakers and start-ups have rushed to begin making electric vehicles and hybrid vehicles as China's central government liberalizes the industry to promote a switch to electricity as an ultimate replacement for petrol to fuel cars.

LeEco's production facility will be part of a larger project to build an "Eco Experience Park" that will cost 20 billion yuan ($3 billion) in total that will also include an entertainment park, facilities for internet-connected electric cars and offices, the statement said.

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Why These Cities Are Leading on Clean Energy

Cities large and small are leading the charge on the country’s transition to clean energy, driven by concerns that range from air pollution to the need to create jobs, according to a new report from the Sierra Club.

The report, part of the Sierra Club’s Ready for 100 campaign that is pushing cities to transition to 100% renewable energy, underscores the role urban areas play in addressing climate change. Cities produce more than 60% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions, according to a United Nations report, and which makes urban zones a key point of leveraging fighting global warming.

But addressing climate change is often not the reason that cities accelerate their push to clean energy, according to the Sierra Club. In San Diego, one of the country’s most conservative big cities, a Republican mayor committed to transitioning to clean energy by citing how the commitment will help expand the city’s clean tech sector. Leaders in Aspen, Colorado cited climate change’s effect on the local economy: global warming has detracted from the local ski industry.

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Why Apple's energy plans are so unique in Silicon Valley

Apple is no longer just a tech company with a commitment to powering itself completely from renewable energy. It is now officially licensed to sell clean electricity too, in an rare move that could save the company hundreds of millions of dollars in energy costs and corporate taxes.

The California tech giant last week won federal approval to start selling electricity, on top of its iPhones, iPads, MacBooks, watches and headphones. Rather than buying solar and wind electricity from another operator, like most technology firms do, Apple can also sell the juice from its own clean power plants.

The iPhone maker is part of a growing group of companies pledging to run most or all of their operations on renewable energy. Microsoft, Facebook and Amazon, for example, have also invested in wind farms and solar plants to help power their data centers and warehouses — a move that cuts both greenhouse gas emissions and energy and tax bills.

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