Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Renewable Energy NEWS

Investments in Renewables Herald ‘Paradigm Shift’

Amid rising concern about the role of fossil fuels in climate change, there was an unprecedented boom in renewables across the globe in 2014, suggesting that countries are already shifting toward more low-carbon energy as the cost to build solar and wind farms falls quickly.

In 2011, a record $279 billion in global renewables investments built wind and solar farms that were able to generate 70 gigawatts of renewable energy. Three years later, $270 billion built 95 gigawatts of solar and wind power generation worldwide — more than ever had been built before as costs fell.

All told, all forms of renewable energy, excluding large hydroelectric plants, contributed to 9.1 percent of global electric power generating capacity in 2014, up from 8.5 percent the year before, according to a new report by the United Nations and Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

“The numbers seem to be telling a story of an energy paradigm shift well underway,” said Eric Usher, head of the UN Environment Program finance initiative. “There is a climate story: Renewables definitely seem to be contributing to the stabilization of CO2 emissions.”

Read the full article at Climate Central and the UN-Bloomberg report here.

Sunny Side East: Solar Takes Off in Eastern U.S.

Though the Southeast is a tad bit less sunny than Southern California, the bullseye of solar power development in the U.S., utilities in the South are scrambling to capture their own rays of sunshine. In fact, North Carolina is leaping ahead of California for the amount of new utility-scale solar farms currently under development, a new SNL Energy report released Wednesday shows.

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The trend is occurring as the solar industry in the U.S. is coming off one of its best years ever. The number of solar installations connected to the electric power grid jumped about 140 percent between 2013 and 2014 nationwide, SNL Energy data show. More than 3.7 gigawatts (GW) of solar power capacity were installed across the U.S. in 2014, which closed out with more than 10 GW of utility-scale solar farms in operation, enough to power more than 2 million homes.

“The adoption of solar is spreading quickly nationwide — and nowhere is that more evident than in states like Texas, as well as Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina and Georgia,” Ken Johnson, vice-president of the Solar Energy Industries Association, said.

Read the full article at Climate Central and the SNL Energy report here.

Wind, Solar Energy Driving Electricity Storage Technology

One of the biggest challenges facing utilities as they find more climate-friendly ways to produce electricity and integrate greenhouse gas-free solar and wind energy into the electric power grid is finding a way to keep the stream of electricity flowing when the wind stops blowing and the sun stops shining.

Last year, California became the first state to require utilities to store energy as a way to facilitate renewable energy production, mandating enough storage capacity — 1,325 megawatts — to power about 1 million homes by the end of the decade.

In addition to helping provide stability to the power grid, energy storage has another advantage: There’s a huge interest in how batteries can help cities and regions with resiliency, he said.

Resiliency is a term many cities are using to describe their efforts to withstand weather extremes that could be brought about or made worse by climate change, including hurricanes as severe as Hurricane Sandy, which knocked out power to millions in the New York City area in 2012.

Read the full article at Climate Central.

Wind, Solar Boosting Investment in Power Lines

Many of the new transmission lines are serving wind farms and solar power plants built in the past decade, providing a route for renewable energy to get onto the power grid.

Wind and solar power, in addition to population shifts in cities in the West and South, are helping to drive major new investment in electric power transmission lines in the U.S., according to a new U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) report.

After a three-decade decline, the U.S. saw a fivefold increase in investments in electric power transmission lines between 1997 and 2012, the report says. Investments increased to $14.1 billion by 2012 from $2.7 billion in 1997.

Renewables such as wind and solar are being developed partly as climate-friendly alternatives to coal-fired power plants, which are among the most significant emitters of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

All the new wind farms in the U.S. required new transmission lines mainly because most of the solar and wind farms exist far from where people use the electricity generated there, according to the EIA.

Read the full article at Climate Central and the EIA report here.

Time to get serious about renewable energy

Maple Ridge Wind Farm, at the eastern end of Lake Ontario, can serve as model for Western New York

Bill Burke, a fifth-generation dairy farmer who has wind towers on his property, offered a tour last summer of Maple Ridge from its visitor center kiosk. Discussion of the wind farm proposal started in 1999, he said, and there was very little opposition. He compared it to his grandfather’s times, when electricity came to the county and a few holdouts weren’t sure they wanted to give up kerosene lanterns for posts and wires along the roads.

After community hearings and discussion, 92 landowners in the Lowville area (pronounced to rhyme, aptly, with “Cowville”) leased portions of their land to the project, and by 2006, 195 wind towers were up and running, making Maple Ridge the largest wind farm in New York State and the second-largest east of the Mississippi.

Each tower has a footprint of less than half an acre, and Burke pointed out that the landowners operate their farm equipment right up and around the towers, much as they do with trees. Cows graze calmly around them, and whatever sound comes from the blades is drowned out by the wind itself.

Read the excellent article by Ellen Banks at BuffaloNews.com

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Get Climate Science Deniers Out of Science Museums


The world’s top scientists, including several Nobel Prize winners, just released an unprecedented letter calling on science and natural history museums to cut all ties to the fossil fuel industry. They wrote:
When some of the biggest contributors to climate change and funders of misinformation on climate science sponsor exhibitions in museums of science and natural history, they undermine public confidence in the validity of the institutions responsible for transmitting scientific knowledge. 
The letter comes on the heels of recent news that Smithsonian-affiliated scientist Willie Soon took $1.25 million from the Koch brothers, Exxon Mobil, American Petroleum Institute and other covert funders to publish junk science denying man-made climate change, and failed to disclose any funding-related conflicts of interest.

In particular, the letter points a finger at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History (D.C.) and the American Museum of Natural History (NY), where David Koch is a member of the board, a major donor and exhibit sponsor.

Oil mogul David Koch sits on the board of our nation’s largest and most respected natural history museums, while he bankrolls groups that deny climate science.

Click here to sign this petition to the Smithsonian and the American Museum of Natural History: It’s time to get science deniers out of science museums. Kick Koch off the board!

Still undecided about signing the petition? Read on. The most embarrassing and scientifically misleading display that the Smithsonian designed, according to physicist and climatologist Joe Romm, directly suggests that humans can simply evolve to deal with global warming. Romm wrote at Climate Progress:
Smithsonian visitors are asked to “imagine” a time that is “far into the future” when “Earth’s temperature has risen and it’s really hot.” Unbelievably, you are then asked “How do you think your body will evolve?” Your choice is “Will you have a tall, narrow body like a giraffe? Or more sweat glands?” 
Click here to sign the petition.

The petition message and the list of signatures will be delivered to the American Museum of Natural History before their annual board meeting the first week of April, and to the Smithsonian before their board meeting in June.
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The scientist letter was initiated by The Natural History Museum, a new museum that is free from ties to the fossil fuel industry, calls out climate science deniers and culprits obstructing action on climate change, and actively champions the just transition to a sustainable and equitable future.
SPONSORS: The Natural History Museum, Forecast The Facts, Daily Kos, Environmental Action, Rainforest Action Network, Bridge Project, Oil Change International, Other 98%, Courage Campaign, CREDO, Friends of the Earth

PUBLIC MEETING: State and County Funding for Local Transit



Wednesday, April 15, 5:30–6:30pm  ~  Doors open at 5:00pm
United Way, 742 Delaware Avenue, Buffalo
Free and Open to All
Panel Speakers:
  • State Assemblyman Sean Ryan
  • Erie County Legislator Patrick Burke
  • Lynda Stephens, Subsidy Action Committee, Coalition for Economic Justice
President Doug Funke will moderate a panel discussion on the need for increased state and local funding for the Niagara Frontier Transit Authority and its impact in sustaining and growing Western New York’s economic renaissance. This discussion will consist of brief talks on the need to increase transit funding from New York State and Erie County and the role of the Erie County Industrial Development Agency’s tax exemptions, followed by a question and answer component. The impetus for this needed increase is to address a $10 million shortfall in the NFTA’s current budget. 

Assemblyman Ryan has been leading the recent charge in Albany to address this need. His plan recognizes the positive economic impact of encouraging increased ridership on public transportation as a caveat of additional funding for the system.

Erie County currently provides minimal portions of tax revenues to the NFTA. The Erie County IDA exempts some of these taxes in its incentives to developers and businesses, further limiting the funds available to transit from Erie County.

The Western New York region has recently seen cutbacks in transit services and is now threatened with further cutbacks of critical routes if budget solutions are not found. These transit services facilitate the upward mobility of urban residents who otherwise lack access to well-paying jobs and are needed by area businesses.

Not investing in Western New York’s public transportation is sure to impede future growth and lead to ever worsening traffic congestion on already over-used public thoroughfares such as the Youngman, Kensington and Interstate 90.  Concern about Buffalo’s sustained commercial and labor market growth is everybody’s business, come join us and learn more on April 15th.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Earth Day Talk: Our Warming Planet, Climate Change and Smart Solutions

Our Warming Planet, Climate Change and Smart Solutions
Tuesday, April 21 at 7:00pm

The presenter will talk about how he became interested in these topics, the scientific evidence for human-caused global warming, and some of the impacts of climate change. He will wrap up with smart solutions to curb warming and climate change, and what people can do to help preserve the vital environment of our planet.

David Kowalski is a retired research professor and a member of the Union of Concerned Scientists. He is also a member of the Executive Committee of the Sierra Club Niagara Group and the Conservation Committee of the local chapter of the Adirondack Mountain Club.

 Free and Open to the Public

REGISTER by Phone: 716-689-4922
LOCATION: Audubon Library, 350 John James Audubon Parkway, Amherst, NY [MAP]

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

"Climate Change" Banned in Florida -- Take Action

Scientists say that the state of Florida is the U.S. region most susceptible to the effects of sea-level rise caused by global warming.

Despite the scientific evidence, the Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection officials have been ordered not to use the term “climate change” or “global warming” in any official communications, emails, or reports.

Whose idea was that?
Hint: see the Buffalo News editorial cartoon by Adam Zyglis, below.

Banning the words "climate change" won't make the impacts go away!

TAKE ACTION: Please Sign the Petition to stop climate censorship: http://act.350.org/sign/FL_censorship

Monday, March 9, 2015

PUBLIC MEETING: Renewal of National Fuel Gas Storage Lease in Allegany State Park

 The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (State Parks) will hold a public information meeting on a lease renewal to continue natural gas storage operations in Allegany State Park with National Fuel Gas Supply Corporation on Monday, March 16 from 7:00pm-9:00pm at Salamanca Senior High School located at 50 Iroquois Drive in Salamanca [Map]. 

State Parks will provide participants with the opportunity to meet with Parks staff as well as National Fuel Gas representatives, review maps and plans for the site. At 7:30pm there will be a presentation on the proposed lease and opportunities for the public to ask questions and provide comments.

Under the terms of the proposed renewal, National Fuel will continue operating its existing subsurface natural gas storage facility within Allegany State Park, known as the Limestone Storage Field, for 15 years.  The proposal would authorize National Fuel to maintain and operate existing storage wells, roads and pipelines associated with the storage field but would limit National Fuel’s activities on the surface of Allegany State Park to the footprint of existing wells and facilities.

The previous 50-year lease expired in June 2014. Parks and NFG entered into a one-year extension that runs through June 2015, to enable the parties to negotiate a long-term lease renewal.

The Limestone Storage Field has been operated in the park since 1964 under a lease, originally issued by New York State to the Felmont Oil Company and acquired by National Fuel in 1990.  The storage field currently contains 14 storage wells which provide gas service to several Western New York counties.

Job Opportunity: Massachusetts Avenue Project is Hiring an Urban Farm Manager

Massachusetts Avenue Project (MAP) is THE place to get involved in addressing food insecurity issues in Buffalo!  And NOW is the time to get involved!  We are announcing an opportunity for interested parties to apply for a position as the new Farm Manager for our organization.

Applications are due by Saturday, March 21, 2015.  CLICK HERE for the full job description and information on how to apply. 

MAP is seeking a full-time Farm Manager to manage production and operations at its urban farm sites on the West Side of Buffalo, NY.  MAP farms using permaculture and other sustainable practices on 1.5 acres producing fruits vegetables herbs, chicken, eggs and tilapia.  The farm includes aquaponics and produce hoophouses, a chicken coop, rainwater catchment, compost, an outdoor harvesting and washing station and a farm stand.

Food grown is marketed through a Mobile Market targeting low-income consumers, as well as through a CSA, restaurant and other sale venues.  MAP annually employs and trains 40-50 youth, ages 14-20, in urban agriculture, food systems, microenterprise development and leadership.

MAP is a non-profit organization, where full-time staff and youth employees work together in a cooperative atmosphere.  Here, we work as a team to accomplish our mission which is to nurture the growth of a diverse and equitable community food system.

MAP is also hiring farm and market interns. Read more about those positions here.

It's been Cold Here, but the Planet is still Warming

By David Kowalski

The front-page illustration titled “The big chill” in The News on Feb. 20 was an eye-catching reminder of the extremely cold temperatures we experienced at the beginning of 2015. January’s high temperatures of all but seven of the days were below the long-term average, as were all but two of the 20 days in February thus far.

Some may interpret such extended cold spells as evidence against global warming. However, that view is incorrect.

Global warming is assessed by measuring temperatures at numerous locations on land around the world as well as in the oceans that make up more than 70 percent of Earth’s surface. Measurements are made over time and the global average temperature is determined.

The Buffalo area comprises only a tiny fraction of the surface of the globe, and so local temperatures make only a small contribution to the global average temperature.

Despite the local “big chill,” the planet continued to warm in January. In fact, the global average temperature was the second-highest since records began in 1880, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. This finding follows in the wake of 2014 as the hottest year on record and the 38th consecutive year of above-average global temperatures.

NOAA displayed its global analysis of January temperatures on a world map showing that the New York State region, including Buffalo, was “cooler than average.” In contrast, however, the Western United States and even parts of Alaska showed above-average warming, as did most other regions on land and in oceans around the globe.

NOAA’s map is below.
[Click image to enlarge]
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This post originally appeared in The Buffalo News on March 1, 2015 as a letter to the editor. It can be viewed at BuffaloNews.com

TALK: Climate Change and Public Health - Alan Lockwood, MD

ADK Niagara Frontier Chapter 
Alan Lockwood, MD
 speaking on
"Climate Change and Public Health"

WHEN: Tuesday, March 10th, 7:30pm – 9:00pm
WHERE: Amherst Community Church, 77 Washington Highway, Snyder  [Map]
NOTE: Please park in rear and enter through back door

Free and Open to the Public

Alan Lockwood is a retired MD and UB Professor Emeritus in the Neurology Dept. In addition to over 200 scientific publications including on environmental toxins, Alan authored a book about the health effects of the coal industry titled “The Silent Epidemic: Coal and Hidden Threat to Health”. Recognized as an  expert in his field, Alan has testified before Congress on the public health impacts of fossil fuel emissions.

According to Alan, “Climate Change is the greatest public health threat of this century.” Reducing greenhouse gas emissions will prevent hundreds of thousands of asthma attacks and reduce our national health care expenditures.

It is imperative for the general public to be informed about the dire impacts of burning fossil fuels, so they can pressure leaders and policy makers to shift to renewable sources of energy, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and create policies to benefit the well-being of humans and the planet.

Alan lives in Buffalo, and is a graduate of Cornell University and its Medical College. He is also on the Board of Directors of Physicians for Social Responsibility, studying the public health impacts of pollution, climate change and nuclear proliferation. This Nobel Peace Prize-winning group works towards a healthier and safer world.

In addition, Alan is a Clean Air Ambassador with earthjustice.org, and is involved with court cases and policy decisions. Earth Justice’s slogan is: “Because the Earth Needs a Good Lawyer”.

For more information on the Niagara Frontier Chapter of the Adirondack Mountain Club, click here.

Scholarships for NYS Geothermal Heat Pump Conference

The New York Geothermal Energy Organization today announced the availability of 25 scholarships to its 2015 annual conference to be held March 17th and 18th at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY.  Dubbed “geopalooza” the 2-day event will focus on geothermal heat pumps (GHPs) as a way to cleanly and renewably heat and cool our homes and buildings, and eliminate on-site fossil fuel burning.  Attendees will hear from cutting edge technical and policy experts on how GHPs can be used to eliminate greenhouse gases and reduce energy bills. 

One focus of the conference will be net zero buildings, where GHPs and renewable electricity are combined to eliminate all greenhouse gas emissions for the building! 

Thanks to a generous donation from the Ives and Noble family, NY-GEO is able to offer 25 scholarships to the conference for students and low-income individuals.  Scholarship applicants are asked to send a blank email with “scholarship” in the title to nygeoinfo@gmail.com.  NY-GEO will respond with a simple 3-minute application form.

Scholarship application deadline is midnight, Wednesday, March 11th. 

Clean and efficient geothermal heating and cooling is the wave of the future, and attendance at this conference will put students in touch with a technology that promises to create jobs for decades to come as climate change and fossil fuel price volatility force a change in our building practices.

To learn more about the conference, go to http://ny-geo.org

The scholarships are available to students and low-income individuals who would otherwise be unable to afford conference fees.  They will cover full conference fees as well as meals and snacks during the conference.  Lodging and transportation will not be covered and, if needed, are the responsibility of the scholarship winners.

On Thursday, March 12th, awardees will be chosen in a lottery, and notified the same day.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

TALK: Energy Democracy! What can We Learn from Germany?

Sierra Club ~ Niagara Group
Climate and Clean Energy Writers

will feature a presentation from:

Aaron Bartley
Executive Director of PUSH Buffalo

Energy Democracy!  
What can we learn from Germany? 

Aaron recently traveled to Germany and witnessed entire communities that produce, maintain, distribute, and sell their own renewable energy. Let's hear what he learned and how PUSH Buffalo sees it applying to WNY!
Monday, March 2, 6:00-7:30 PM
Unitarian Universalist Church
695 Elmwood at Ferry (Garden Entrance), Buffalo

For a printable flier, click here.