Weekend reads - Smart Energy Decisions

Regulation, Commercial, Distributed Generation, Regulation, Solar  -  February 25, 2017

Weekend reads: Pruitt's emails; a hydrogen boat voyage; solar farm controversy & more

Every Saturday, we'll bring you five of the most interesting — or quirky; it is the weekend after all — energy stories from around the web that you may have missed this week. This weekend's reads:

Thousands of emails detail EPA head's close ties to fossil fuel industry (The Washington Post): In his previous role as Oklahoma's attorney general, the Environmental Protection Agency's new administrator regularly huddled with fossil fuel firms and electric utilities about how to combat federal environmental regulations and spoke to conservative political groups about what they called government “overreach,” according to thousands of pages of emails made public Wednesday.

New farmland harvest – solar energy – creating political sparks (The Connecticut Mirror): "This is beautiful," Kevin Sullivan proclaimed, navigating his truck at a snail's pace around the perimeter of about 11 acres of his farmland here. The rows are ramrod straight, perfectly aligned. But no crops here. Solar panels are what's poking through the dirt – 8,812 of them. They're Sullivan’s homegrown effort to fight climate change and, as important, give his longtime nursery and greenhouse operation a new lease on life after winding up in the wrong column of a balance sheet. Without the income he now gets from leasing his field so it can generate two megawatts of renewable power for a nearby town, "I’d be done," he said. "There’d be eight houses on this piece. I have to do something with my land if I want to survive." 

Wind and solar power are disrupting electricity systems (But that's no reason for governments to stop supporting them) The Economist: Almost 150 years after photovoltaic cells and wind turbines were invented, they still generate only 7% of the world’s electricity. Yet something remarkable is happening. From being peripheral to the energy system just over a decade ago, they are now growing faster than any other energy source and their falling costs are making them competitive with fossil fuels. BP, an oil firm, expects renewables to account for half of the growth in global energy supply over the next 20 years. It is no longer far-fetched to think that the world is entering an era of clean, unlimited and cheap power. About time, too.

This boat will make its own fuel on a round-the-world voyage (WIRED): Remember Solar Impulse 2, the solar-powered plane that circumnavigated the world in July 2016? This could be the ocean-going equivalent. In a bid to prove the effectiveness of hydrogen as a renewable fuel, Victorien Erussard and Jérôme Delafosse will sail around the world in a boat powered by the gas – made from the elements they encounter on the way. "The problem is that 95 per cent of the hydrogen that you use already is made out of fossil energies," says Delafosse. "We will produce hydrogen onboard from the ocean, we will clean and purify the water and then we will electrolyse it and then compress it in tank storage." 

Tesla expects to finalize plans for 2 Gigafactories in 2017 (Utility Dive): Tesla's earnings report this week included details that the company expects to finalize the locations for two more factories this year, signaling a long-term growth strategy for the transformational energy company. Production of batteries at Tesla's first factory in Nevada, the much-heralded Gigafactory, began last month and is expected to produce 35 GWh/year of lithium-ion battery cells by 2018. 

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