Someone, probably a shut-in, on the editorial board of the Deseret News in Salt Lake City is upset that Utah can’t frack for gas the way North Dakota can because of the Obama administration’s canceling of some 77 oil and gas leases on federal lands with “the stroke of a pen,” etc., etc. Mitt Romney, the paper says, has a much better plan that would “pioneer” new policies at the local level on the eastern side of the state. Funny, because just a few weeks ago, the New York Times had a rather detailed account by Eric Lipton of how the regional office of the federal Bureau of Land Management conducts oversight of the energy industry in eastern Utah as if it were basically an ongoing giveaway to energy companies.
Archive for the ‘ENERGY’ Category
From the August 2012 issue of LAM:
By Linda McIntyre
Redeveloping brownfield sites can take a lot of time and money. But sometimes contaminated land can be put to good use during, or even before, the cleanup is finished.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is promoting the installation of renewable energy infrastructure on brownfields, abandoned mine sites, Superfund sites, and landfills. The agency’s RE-Powering Initiative has identified more than 11,000 sites that add up to almost 15 million acres of land with the potential to host solar, wind, biomass, or geothermal installations.
Renewable energy projects, which can generate opposition in their own right, can be easier to build in these areas. In a recent podcast discussing the program, Mathy Stanislaus, the assistant administrator for solid waste and emergency response, noted that the sites the EPA is focusing on for this program are often already located near important infrastructure such as roads, electrical lines, and water pipes, and they are usually already zoned to allow utility-type uses.
The initiative started in 2008, but the EPA has developed more tools to help landowners and communities determine whether their site would be a good fit for this kind of project. Most recently, the agency has released a handbook for siting projects and created decision trees for solar and wind projects. The materials are based on data and experience collected from more than 50 projects that have already been built. More than 450 participants, including representatives from nonprofits, states, and local governments, logged into two recent webinars on using the new solar and wind tools.
Among these are one of the biggest solar facilities in the United States, on a Superfund site at a molybdenum mine in Questa, New Mexico; also a wind operation at a former steel mill on the banks of Lake Erie that produces enough energy to power about 9,000 homes; less-expensive electricity for groundwater cleanup on remote parts of an Arizona Superfund site; and a landfill gas operation at a California Superfund site.
This seems like an idea whose time has come—the EPA gets inquiries about the program from developers and communities every day. You can find more information, including the handbook, decision tree tools, details of existing projects, and a guide to federal and state incentives for this kind of redevelopment here.
Up at the Toronto Star, the critic Christopher Hume sees a rather unsustainable condo skyline going up in his city. He thumps this sort of development in the context of rising environmental consciousness in the building arts and sciences generally. “[W]e will look back at these early 21st-century towers much as we do now at suburbia,” Hume writes. “Too often, architectural elegance hides inner ecological ugliness.” He adds, pleasantly enough: “Landscape architects have been quicker to grasp this new reality that the built environment remains part of the larger environment.”
In sub-Saharan Africa, 300 million people don’t have electricity. Those who can afford it save up for solar systems, buying them component by component—battery, light, inverter, solar panel—sometimes taking years to buy the cheapest, $50 systems. Those systems are still too expensive for many, who settle for kerosene lamps or do without.
Mother Nature Network reports that a new system makes solar power work much like phone cards—customers put money on “scratch cards” and use them to pay for electricity, which costs about $1 a week, as much as $2 less than kerosene. A company called Eight19 has created IndiGo, a pay-as-you-go solar electricity option. For as little as $10, people can get a 3-watt solar panel, battery, two LED lamps, phone charging unit, and module. People who buy the system can put money on their scratch cards with their mobile phones.
Industries all want a piece of the Earth’s oceans—for shipping, tourism, fishing, energy development. The result is an ad hoc, first-come, first-served mess, where one use, say oil drilling, may set up shop in a location that might better be reserved for another use, such as fishing or tourism. These same sorts of issues, if they happened on land, might be resolved by a comprehensive land use plan that would take into account the best uses of the land in question for the interested parties and, perhaps most important, for the community at large.
On the ocean, comprehensive ocean planning is also called marine spatial planning (MSP). Sarah Chasis, the director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Ocean Initiative, says that the U.S. economy can benefit from MSP, and blogs about an example, a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that looks at optimal siting for a wind farm off the coast of Massachusetts. The study’s authors claim that taking into account other uses as well as habitat and ecosystem preservation when choosing a site for the wind farm will add more than $10 billion in extra value to the energy sector while saving the fishery and whale-watching sectors more than $1 million in losses.