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Ohio to Build First Offshore Wind Farm in Great Lakes, Aims to Boost Local Industry

Cleveland-based firm will begin construction on the 20-MW wind project in 2012, with the goal of spurring a turbine manufacturing industry in its home city

By Maria Gallucci, SolveClimate News

May 6, 2011
Cleveland, Ohio on the shores of Lake Erie

Ohio is set to build the first offshore wind farm in the Great Lakes, outpacing neighboring states and a Canadian province whose own plans are facing long delays and possible outright bans.

Cleveland-based (LEEDCo) expects to start construction on a 20-megawatt, $100 million pilot project by next year and aims to have the turbines operational by late 2013.

— a developer formed by Bechtel Development Company, Cavallo Great Lakes Ohio Wind and Great Lakes Wind Energy — could reach a power purchase agreement with utilities within a month. Energy from the project could supply around 16,000 homes with electricity.

LEEDCo hopes the demonstration can jump-start a freshwater wind industry across the eight states surrounding the five lakes and the province of Ontario — all while steering wind turbine manufacturing to Ohio's existing component and construction materials industries.

"We think there is great value in being first, because our goal is not just to generate electricity," said Dennis Eckart, a strategic adviser to LEEDCo and president of the North Shore Associates consulting firm.

"One of our main goals is to create a supply chain industry that will support the building and deployment of these turbines," as well as entice a turbine maker to build a full assembly plant in Ohio, he said.

U.S. Senate Panel Approves Bill for Pipeline Safety

Under the bipartisan bill — a response to several pipeline accidents in the last year — pipeline safety fines would more than double to $2.5 million

Tom Doggett,

May 6, 2011
An oil pipeline in Alaska

WASHINGTON—Reckless operators of U.S. petroleum and natural gas pipelines would pay higher fines under bipartisan safety legislation passed on Thursday by the Senate Commerce Committee.

The bill is in response to several pipeline accidents in the last year that killed more than a dozen people, destroyed homes and polluted land and water.

"More needs to be done to strengthen oversight and address safety vulnerabilities," said Senator Jay Rockefeller, the committee's chairman.

The legislation would raise fines from $100,000 per day to $250,000, and from $1 million for a series of pipeline violations to $2.5 million.

The bill also requires automatic shut-off valves to prevent oil spills and natural gas explosions, and would authorize more federal pipeline safety inspectors.

New Apps for Solar Installers Providing Competitive Edge

Unirac says its solar apps will make installations 'go smoother' and faster. Industry says such digital innovation can ultimately drive down costs

By Maria Gallucci, SolveClimate News

May 5, 2011

Doug May used to watch with unease as solar builders assembling his firm's rooftop mounts raced up and down ladders to fish crumpled manuals from their trucks, or rummaged for instructions on clunky laptops.

And so, like others in the industry, he created an app for them.

Last week, Albuquerque-based began offering installers mobile apps for its aluminum and steel mounts for photovoltaic (PV) solar arrays. The free products are available for users of Apple's iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch but could be developed for Google's Android and other phones later this year.

"For us, it is all about how we can make the installation go smoother and how we can be easier to do business with for our customers," May, CEO of Unirac, told SolveClimate News.

"We've come to the conclusion that 'solar 2.0' is happening in terms of taking down the total cost of ownership and providing products and services that meet the engineering requirements of our customers," he said.

Unirac has a 30 percent share of the North American solar racking market and was recently acquired by Lichtenstein-based powertool giant Hilti Group. The solar firm's client list includes the Google Campus in Mountain View, Calif., and Universal Studios in Hollywood.

Scotland Awards Contracts to Make Electricity from Whiskey

Scotland will use the byproducts of its famed whiskey-making industry to create electricity for homes

Kirsty Scott,

May 5, 2011
The Glenfiddich Distillery in Scotland

It is the spirit that powers the Scottish economy, and now whiskey is to be used to create electricity for homes in a new bioenergy venture involving some of Scotland's best-known distilleries.

Contracts have recently been awarded for the construction of a biomass combined heat and power plant at Rothes in Speyside that by 2013 will use the by-products of the whiskey-making process for production.

Vast amounts of "draff," the spent grains used in the distilling process, and pot ale, a residue from the copper stills, are produced by the whiskey industry each year and are usually transported off-site.

The , a joint venture between Helius Energy and the Combination of Rothes Distillers (CoRD) will burn the draff with woodchips to generate enough electricity to supply 9,000 homes. It will be supplied by , a Danish engineering company. The pot ale will be made into a concentrated organic fertilizer and an animal feed for use by local farmers.

Environmentalists have expressed concern that some of the wood used in the process may not be locally sourced, but say the 7.2 megawatt project — the equivalent output of two large wind turbines — is a good scale and a valuable addition to Scotland's renewables industry.

14 Percent Budget Cut to Key Energy Agency Wins Few Fans

EIA information helps guide a roughly $1.2 trillion energy market that reaches into every sector of the U.S. economy

By Elizabeth McGowan, SolveClimate News

May 4, 2011
Sen. Jeff Bingaman

WASHINGTON—With austerity as the guiding mantra during this budget season, researcher Neal Elliott certainly grasps the concept of a parsimonious Congress nipping and tucking its way to deficit reduction.

But he doesn't think representatives or senators were particularly surgically adept with their decision to slice away $15.2 million from an already-underfunded agency that generates a cornucopia of energy statistics, analysis and forecasting valued by policymakers, regulators, businesses, nonprofits, think tanks and everyday citizens.

And Elliott, associate director for research at the , is part of a vocal majority.

Hardly anybody anywhere can make a logical argument for paring the Energy Information Administration's budget by 14 percent while the nation is stumbling along with what can best be described as a hit and miss energy policy.

"All pounds of flesh are not created equal," Elliott told SolveClimate News in an interview. "As a think tank working at the state and local level, one of our biggest challenges is bridging data gaps. EIA is a key source of information we are dependent on, and budget cuts just are going to make things worse because operating in the dark is not a good place to be."