Energy & the Environment News and Discussions

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wjfox
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Oh, and staying on the topic of solar roof installations...

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U.S. seeks to speed rooftop solar growth with instant permits

July 16, 20219:41 PM BST

The Biden administration on Thursday will roll out a tool that enables instant local permitting of rooftop solar installations, addressing a major source of industry delays and possibly lowering costs for homeowners, the Energy Department said.

The Solar Automated Permit Processing (SolarAPP+) platform, developed by DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory, will be an optional portal for local governments to process permit applications automatically.

Approvals typically take a week or more currently, and permit-related costs can account for about a third of installers' overall costs, DOE said. The software speeds the process up by standardizing requirements, streamlining the application and automating some approvals.

Administration officials said the software will help speed adoption of rooftop solar and achieve President Joe Biden's goal of decarbonizing the U.S. electricity grid by 2035, a key pillar of his plan to address climate change. DOE has said that solar energy will need to be installed at a pace as much as five times faster than it is today to realize that goal.

https://www.reuters.com/business/sustai ... 021-07-15/


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Credit: REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
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U.S., Germany reach agreement on Russian gas pipeline, ending dispute between allies
Source: Washington Post
The Biden administration reached an agreement with Germany on Wednesday that allows for the completion of a controversial natural gas pipeline between Russia and Germany, ending a heated dispute between the two allies that overlapped three successive U.S. administrations.

In exchange for an end to U.S. efforts to block the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, Germany will invest in Ukraine’s green technology infrastructure and Berlin and Washington will work together on other initiatives to mitigate Russia’s energy dominance in Europe.

The decision drew immediate criticism from Russia hawks in Congress who hoped the United States could find a way to block the nearly-completed multibillion-dollar project they say gives Moscow leverage over U.S. allies in Europe.

The Biden administration viewed the project as a dilemma that forced it to choose between restoring its beleaguered relationship with Berlin and keeping its public promise to oppose the project. U.S. officials doubted that U.S. sanctions could ultimately prevent its completion and argued that a deal with Germany rather than a protracted fight offered the best outcome.
Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/national ... gO2FR_Hkk8
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PG&E announces plan to bury thousands of miles of lines
Source: Associated Press
CHICO, Calif. (KTXL) — Pacific Gas and Electric announced on Wednesday that it plans to bury 10,000 miles of lines in parts of the state with a higher fire danger.

The utility made the announcement in Butte County, where it says its equipment could be to blame for igniting the 85,000-acre Dixie Fire.

“We want what all of our customers want: a safe and resilient energy system. We have taken a stand that catastrophic wildfires shall stop. We will partner with the best and the brightest to bring that stand to life,” PG&E CEO Patti Poppe said in a news release. “We will demand excellence of ourselves. We will gladly partner with policymakers and state and local leaders to map a path we can all believe in.”

After the 2017 wine country fires and 2018’s Camp Fire, which killed dozens of people and largely destroyed the Butte County town of Paradise, PG&E says it began looking into putting overhead power lines underground.
Read more: https://fox40.com/news/wildfire-watch/p ... -of-lines/
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RNA breakthrough creates crops that can grow 50% more potatoes, rice

by University of Chicago
https://phys.org/news/2021-07-rna-break ... -rice.html
Manipulating RNA can allow plants to yield dramatically more crops, as well as increasing drought tolerance, announced a group of scientists from the University of Chicago, Peking University and Guizhou University.

In initial tests, adding a gene encoding for a protein called FTO to both rice and potato plants increased their yield by 50% in field tests. The plants grew significantly larger, produced longer root systems and were better able to tolerate drought stress. Analysis also showed that the plants had increased their rate of photosynthesis.

"The change really is dramatic," said University of Chicago Prof. Chuan He, who together with Prof. Guifang Jia at Peking University, led the research. "What's more, it worked with almost every type of plant we tried it with so far, and it's a very simple modification to make."
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Biden administration to curb toxic wastewater from coal plants with new rule
Source: Washington Post
The Environmental Protection Agency announced Monday it will set stricter requirements for how coal-fired power plants dispose of wastewater full of arsenic, lead and mercury — a major source of toxic water pollution for rivers and streams near electric generators across the country, from Wyoming to Pennsylvania.

In a new rulemaking process kicked off Monday, President Biden’s team is aiming to undo one of the Trump administration’s major regulatory rollbacks. Last year, the Trump EPA watered down rules forcing many coal plants to treat wastewater with modern filtration methods and other technology before it reached waterways that provide drinking water for thousands of Americans.

“What we found is that the Trump administration’s 2020 rule really is lacking,” Radhika Fox, the EPA’s top water official, said in an interview Monday. “We think that we can do better when it comes to reducing water pollution from coal power plants.”

The power plant wastewater rule is just one of dozens of Trump administration rollbacks that the Biden team is seeking to reverse in its effort to tackle climate change and reduce pollution that often overburden the poorest communities in the United States.

-snip-

By Dino Grandoni
Today at 1:32 p.m. EDT

Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate- ... -new-rule/
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China to add 55-65 GW of solar power capacity in 2021
China is still expected to add up to 65 GigaWatts (GW) of solar power capacity in 2021, its solar manufacturing association said on Thursday, taking total solar installations beyond 300 GW by the end of the year.

Solar power installation reached only about 13 GW in the first six months, as a supply constraint on photovoltaic raw material and soaring product prices slowed the development of new solar projects. read more

"(The progress of) utility-scale solar projects in the coming months will depend on price movements alongside the solar supply chain," Wang Bohua, honorary president of the China Photovoltaic Industry Association (CPIA), said at an industrial conference.

The price of polysilicon, a key raw material for making solar cells, was three-and-a-half times higher in June than at the end of last year. read more
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Workers walk at a solar power station in Tongchuan, Shaanxi province, China December 11, 2019. REUTERS/Muyu Xu
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Renewables surged in 2020 but world not yet on track for climate goals, BP says
Wind and solar installed capacity increased by a "colossal" 238 gigawatts last year, the review said.

"The increase in installed capacity last year was 50% bigger than at any time seen in history, despite the world (being) in turmoil, despite the largest peace-time recession," Dale said.

The growth in renewables last year came largely at the expense of coal-fired generation, which experienced one of its largest annual declines on record of 4.4%.
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Turning diapers into sticky notes: Using chemical recycling to prevent millions of tons of waste
https://phys.org/news/2021-07-diapers-s ... lions.html
by University of Michigan

Every year, 3.5 million metric tons of sodden diapers end up in landfills.
The superabsorbent material inside these diapers is made up of a matrix of polymers that expand once dampness hits them. Polymers are a long chain of repeating units, and in this case, the absorbent material in diapers is based on the polymer polyacrylic acid.

A University of Michigan team has developed a technique to untangle these absorbent polymers and recycle them into materials similar to the gooey adhesives used in sticky notes and bandages. Their results are published in Nature Communications.

Broadly, recycling can be grouped into mechanical recycling and chemical recycling.

"Mechanical recycling is what most people think about: You separate different plastics based on their identities, chop them up into small pieces, melt them and reuse them, which lowers the quality of the product," said U-M chemist Anne McNeil, corresponding author of the paper.

Mechanical recycling leads to lower quality materials because different companies' plastics are constructed differently: The polymers can be different chain lengths or altered with different additives and dyes.
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Renewables overtake nuclear and coal to became the second-most prevalent U.S. electricity source in 2020
In 2020, renewable energy sources (including wind, hydroelectric, solar, biomass, and geothermal energy) generated a record 834 billion kilowatthours (kWh) of electricity, or about 21% of all the electricity generated in the United States. Only natural gas (1,617 billion kWh) produced more electricity than renewables in the United States in 2020. Renewables surpassed both nuclear (790 billion kWh) and coal (774 billion kWh) for the first time on record. This outcome in 2020 was due mostly to significantly less coal use in U.S. electricity generation and steadily increased use of wind and solar.

In 2020, U.S. electricity generation from coal in all sectors declined 20% from 2019, while renewables, including small-scale solar, increased 9%. Wind, currently the most prevalent source of renewable electricity in the United States, grew 14% in 2020 from 2019. Utility-scale solar generation (from projects greater than 1 megawatt) increased 26%, and small-scale solar, such as grid-connected rooftop solar panels, increased 19%.

Coal-fired electricity generation in the United States peaked at 2,016 billion kWh in 2007 and much of that capacity has been replaced by or converted to natural gas-fired generation since then. Coal was the largest source of electricity in the United States until 2016, and 2020 was the first year that more electricity was generated by renewables and by nuclear power than by coal (according to our data series that dates back to 1949). Nuclear electric power declined 2% from 2019 to 2020 because several nuclear power plants retired and other nuclear plants experienced slightly more maintenance-related outages.
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Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), Monthly Energy Review
Note: This graph shows electricity net generation in all sectors (electric power, industrial, commercial, and residential) and includes both utility-scale and small-scale (customer-sited, less than 1 megawatt) solar.
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Eggborough Power Station: Four cooling towers demolished

5 hours ago

Four of eight huge cooling towers have been demolished at a former coal-fired power station in North Yorkshire.

The 300ft (90m) high structures in Eggborough, near Selby, were brought down shortly after 08:00 BST as part of a plan to redevelop the site.

It stood for 50 years in an area where all four Yorkshire counties - North, South, East and West - meet.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-y ... e-58047126


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