renewables

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

After hearing more than five hours of public testimony, the Wyoming Legislature’s Joint Revenue Committee rejected a bill Thursday that would have increased the tax on wind energy production.

Wyoming currently taxes production at $1 per megawatt hour, the only such tax in the nation. The state is facing a major budget shortfall because of the downturn in coal, oil and gas production. Raising the wind tax came up as a possible way to generate revenue for school construction. Rep. Mike Madden, R-Buffalo, introduced the failed proposal to raise the tax to $3 per megawatt hour.

Cally Carswell

  

In the 1930s, rural electric cooperatives brought electricity to the country’s most far-flung communities, transforming rural economies. In Western Colorado, one of these co-ops is again trying to spur economic development, partly by generating more of their electricity locally from renewable resources, like water in irrigation ditches and the sun.

KQED

Concerns about who would be in charge of an integrated Western grid are delaying a decision on the issue, even though it is expected to increase the use of renewables across the West and save consumers millions of dollars. 

Leigh Paterson

  

Wind turbines are pretty sleek-looking from a distance, but there’s a lot going on behind those spinning blades.

Bryan Boatright, a wind energy technology instructor at Laramie County Community College, took me up into a deconstructed nacelle. A nacelle is a big rectangular box that holds generation components like the generator and drive train. Each one looks like an RV.

Will Stone / KJZZ

  

Julie and Jim Powell’s air conditioner has been fending off the summertime heat since they bought their traditional Sun City home two decades ago.

“It’s been a workhorse. It’s probably twenty years old, but it does the job,” Julie Powell said, peering at the noisy unit from the shade of her back porch. It’s only midmorning, but her graveled backyard is already too hot to venture across.

Coal production during in the first quarter of 2016 was the lowest its been since 1981. According to the US Energy Information Administration, coal production in the Power River Basin dropped nearly 30% from the fourth quarter of 2015. That is a bigger drop than in any other region.

Demand for coal is down because of low natural gas prices, competition from renewables, and environmental regulations. An unusually warm winter also reduced demand, so companies cut production.

Dan Boyce / Inside Energy

The cost of wind and solar power have fallen dramatically in recent years. Still, renewables only account for a fraction of the energy produced in the United States.

statemuseum.nd.gov

  

It’s hard not to notice the influence of the oil and coal industries at the North Dakota Heritage Center in Bismarck. Inside the Continental Resources-sponsored Inspiration Gallery you can learn about coal reclamation, touch the Bakken shale, and guess which everyday products are made of petroleum. You can buy oil-themed chocolate at the gift store. Fossil fuel companies are some of the largest donors to this museum, which reopened in 2014 after a $52 million expansion and renovation.

Bob Beck

Wyoming Governor Matt Mead has unveiled a new energy plan that still pays a lot of attention to coal, but also looks to boost renewable energy. Mead says Wyoming needs to diversify its energy economy, but denies that the decline of coal did not lead to that choice.

“It was never, hey, coal is having a tough time now and so we are going to move away from coal and to renewables. In fact in some ways I’d say it’s a doubling down on coal and a very good start on renewables.”

Oregon Says No To Coal-Fired Electricity

Mar 4, 2016
David Hanson

Oregon lawmakers have passed a landmark clean-energy bill that lays out a timeline for Oregonians to stop paying for electricity from coal-fired power plants through its two largest utilities, PacifiCorp and Portland General Electric.

Stephanie Joyce

  

Historically, electricity pricing has been relatively straightforward: the more you use, the more you pay. But today, that simple equation is not so simple. Increasingly, the time of day when you use electricity factors into the cost as well. It’s called time-of-use pricing, and while it can save money and energy, it’s not always popular.

With Industry In Turmoil, Energy Players Meet In Houston

Feb 26, 2016
IHS Energy/CERAWeek

  

The energy industry is in turmoil. Coal and oil prices are way down, there are big changes to environmental regulations in the works, and more and more renewables are coming online. Some of the biggest players in the industry met at a conference in Houston this week to weigh in on what it all means. Inside Energy reporter Jordan Wirfs-Brock was at IHS CERAWeek. She spoke to Wyoming Public Radio’s Stephanie Joyce from the conference about the biggest issues on the table for the energy industry.  

TRANSCRIPT:

Solar Impulse / Rezo.ch

A small, lightweight aircraft landed in Hawaii today, setting a new record for the world’s longest solo flight in a solar-powered plane. 

After spending 118 hours in the air, Swiss Pilot Andre Borschberg landed on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, ending the longest leg of a planned trip around the world. The Solar Impulse 2 took off from Abu Dhabi in March but was delayed in China and then Japan due to bad weather. At the end of June, Borschberg finally got the green light. He took off from Japan and landed in Hawaii five days later.   

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

 

A massive Wyoming wind project that would send electricity west has gotten approval for an important part of its plan. The Bureau of Land Management announced Friday that key infrastructure components of the proposed Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Project have cleared environmental review: a road, a rail facility, and a rock quarry.  Heather Schultz, the project manager from Wyoming’s Bureau of Land Management, said these elements will be vital for building and operating the wind farm.  

Dan Boyce/Inside Energy

Following backlash from customers, South Dakota-based Black Hills Power has dropped a proposed rate increase for solar users. 

The surcharge would have applied to customers in South Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming. Although the company has withdrawn the proposal for now, it hasn't ruled out bringing it back in the future. Deb Theriault of Casper-based Range Solar & Wind said even a surcharge of $5 to $20 could be a real disincentive.

Leigh Paterson

Four companies, including Wyoming-based Pathfinder Wind Energy, announced an eight billion dollar project this week that would eventually send Wyoming wind power to California. If built, the wind farm would be one of the largest in the country. 

Cool Planet Energy Systems

More than 40 million acres of trees have been killed by bark beetles in the Rocky Mountain West over the last two decades. Those trees are an eyesore, and as we heard in the last story, a source of carbon dioxide. But a new project is trying to find an upside to the epidemic. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has given researchers at five western universities, including the University of Wyoming, $10 million to see if those dead trees can be converted into gasoline.