The General Assembly gets back to work this week and the days are growing shorter until adjournment. The Senate Energy and Public Utilities Committee will meet on Tuesday and will hold the fifth hearing on SB 346 to repeal HB 6 and reinstate renewable and efficiency mandates. In an interview with the Associated Press, Rep. Bill Seitz voiced his opposition to a repeal saying “There is no representative and no senator who voted yes on House Bill 6, who lost their reelection bid,” Seitz said in an interview with The Associated Press. “But many, several, at least, who voted no, lost. So what does that tell you?” Seitz vowed to vote against any repeal bill brought to the House for a floor vote during the next four weeks of the lame duck session.”
The AP report went on to say, ”The concern for Republicans like Seitz, Cupp and committee chairman Jim Hoops is that repealing the bill outright would have unintended consequences and they need more time to understand the complex legislation.”
Ohio Power Siting Board activity has been enormous. Solar applications are streaming in from 18 or more counties – most of them utility solar projects. One of them caught our eye: Ross County Solar LLC, a subsidiary of Minnesota-based Geronimo Energy, LLC (aka National Grid Renewables https://nationalgridrenewables.com/). Ross County Solar filed a Motion for a Protective Order seeking confidential treatment of proposed equipment model information including inverters, solar panels and array tracking systems. On November 25th, the OPSB staff filed a Memorandum Contra objecting to the confidential treatment of equipment information. The attached Staff Memorandum states, in part, that:
“Equally significant, the public also has a strong interest in knowing the different types of equipment models being considered because their interest in the project may hinge on the type of equipment being considered and its potential impacts. For example, if inverters and panels have different wattages and voltages, it would affect how many of each type of equipment the project would require. In addition, the public may want to know specification differences such as product lifetime, degradation data, dimensions, safety class, fire rating, bifaciality, efficiency, snow load, wind load, and product certifications. Ohio law requires the information to be public unless confidentiality is established. Here, RCS has failed to establish cause for confidential treatment. The under-seal equipment model information does not merit a protective order. It is the Applicant’s burden to justify confidential treatment. Here, RCS fails to meet this burden. The Board should deny RCS’s motion for a protective order as it relates to its equipment model information.”
We presume renewable warriors will seek out the product specifications for different model types. Wind News invites readers to send in any known product information and we will pass it along.
Another one bites the dust – The Vestas V150 wind turbine suffered another ‘accident’ with a tower collapse in Sweden. “The collapse in Sweden is the third incident this year involving the V150, which has been a huge commercial success for Vestas as wind farms around the world install more powerful machines. In September a blade fell from a V150 in Ohio in the US, in an incident Vestas said had been traced to a one-off production issue. … GE Renewable Energy in 2019 undertook a major investigation after a string of collapses affecting its wind turbines, concluding that a variety of factors rather than a single cause was at play. Please see the 2019 article entitled Top GE engineer lifts lid on wind turbine collapse probe findings for specific findings.
The U.S. Court of International Trade rules bifacial solar panels are subject to tariffs – The Thursday ruling favors manufacturers with U.S. manufacturing facilities such as Hanwha Q Cells, Jinko Solar and LG. First Solar, which has a solar factory in Ohio and whose technology is also exempt from Section 201 tariffs, stands to see the biggest benefit. The Solar Energy Industry Association and Invenergy were both parties to the litigation. Should Biden become President, he will be able to reverse the tariffs. It will be interesting to see if Biden acts against Ohio’s First Solar in favor of the Chinese.
Erie County under attack again by Apex – Apex has proposed a utility solar project called Wheatsborough. They indicate they will be seeking PILOT and readers will recall that the County Commissioners rejected Apex’s previous request for PILOT in the Emerson Creek wind project. Apex representative Sarah Moser stated on the record that Emerson Creek would go forward without PILOT.
Farm Bureau leads the Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance (FACA) – This Alliance was formed in February 2020 by four groups that now co-chair the alliance: American Farm Bureau Federation, Environmental Defense Fund, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, and National Farmers Union. The alliance has since expanded to include FMI – The Food Industry Association, National Alliance of Forest Owners, National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, and The Nature Conservancy. Together, the group developed more than 40 recommendations based on three principles: agricultural and forestry climate policies must be built upon voluntary, incentive-based programs and market-driven opportunities; they must promote resilience and adaptation in rural communities; and they must be science-based. These recommendations share an overarching goal to do no harm. Climate policies will impact farmers, forest owners, ranchers, rural and limited-resources communities, wildlife and natural resources and must be thoughtfully crafted to account for any potential inequities, consequences and tradeoffs….. Incentivize farmers to reduce energy consumption and increase on-farm renewable energy production, and make continued progress toward reducing the lifecycle GHG emissions of agriculture- and forestry-based renewable energy. This initiative will be important to keep an eye on. The Ohio Farm Bureau discussed the potential for income for farmers who choose to sequester carbon in their soils and woodlands in their most recent issue of Our Ohio magazine. We think there are going to revenue opportunities here but fail to see how covering farmland with solar panels can advance soil health – we think it may be just the opposite. One thing we do know – fields of solar panels make no impact on climate change.
Ohio State University announces Energy Innovation Center – Ohio State’s board of trustees approved $31.5 million for construction of a new Energy Advancement and Innovation Center, one of the major projects planned for the university’s West Campus innovation district near the corner of Kenny Road and Lane Avenue. Combined with $5.2 in design services previously approved, the total project cost is $36.7 million. University officials have called the planned center a “cornerstone” of its private energy partnership with Ohio State Energy Partners, a private company made up of French energy company ENGIE and Canadian investment firm Axium Infrastructure. It will be located near the Interdisciplinary Research Center also planned for the new West Campus district. We’re not sure what this is but if it advances the world beyond wind and solar, it will be a good thing.
Invenergy Boasts Biggest Solar Project EVER – US renewables giant Invenergy has begun building what will be the US’ largest ever solar farm, the 1.3GW Samson Solar Energy Center project in Texas, to supply five big-name commercial conglomerates and three municipalities in the state. Now under construction, the developer’s $1.6bn Samson Solar Energy Center will power AT&T (500MW), Honda (200MW), McDonald’s (160MW), Google (100MW), Home Depot (50MW), and the cites of Bryan (150MW), Denton (75MW) and Garland (25MW), once online in 2023. Too bad about those solar panel tariffs, eh Invenergy?
Snake Oil Salesman Traversing Indiana – Hoosiers for Renewables, recently presented to the Boone County Commissioners. He said farmers in Boone County could successfully diversify their acreage’s crop mix by pursuing wind and solar projects. He said more solar projects are coming to Indiana and that rural counties should embrace them, citing a recent Ball State study that shows electricity generation costs for renewables now rival natural gas and coal. This comes as Indiana releases a report on how it will transition from fossil fuels. The first draft of the report said that renewables were “highly desirable” but were only cost competitive because of “significant” government subsidies, were “significantly less reliable” and that “back-up sources,” such as from fossil fuels, were needed to compensate for that unreliability. The final draft toned down the criticism. While Ohio continues to debate its energy future, Indiana is doing likewise. Beware!
A Union County Farmer Speaks Out – In a comment letter filed with the OPSB. Union County resident Julie Robinson eloquently expresses her concerns and frustrations with the Union Solar project. The letter is attached and we urge everyone to read it. This letter is a powerful testimony as to why local communities deserve to have a voice in the imposition of utility scale projects. Please read this letter and share it with your neighbors and your local government officials.
November 27, 2020
Deadline nears to repeal tainted bailout law
By Farnoush Amiri
Report for America/ Associated Press
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Hopes of repealing an energy bailout law are in danger at the Ohio Statehouse as Republican lawmakers argue sharply different positions on how and whether to repeal the legislation with only weeks before Ohioans begin to pay the price.
In one corner stands veteran GOP lawmakers like Rep. Bill Seitz, ranking member of the majority party, who believes the Nov. 3 election results solidified the standing of the now-tainted bailout bill even if federal investigators found the process of its passage to be corrupt.
“There is no representative and no senator who voted yes on House Bill 6, who lost their reelection bid,” Seitz said in an interview with The Associated Press. “But many, several, at least, who voted no, lost. So what does that tell you?” Seitz vowed to vote against any repeal bill brought to the House for a floor vote during the next four weeks of the lame duck session.
In the other corner, there are Republican Reps. Laura Lanese and Mark Romanchuk. Both lawmakers introduced a bill this past summer to repeal the law at the center of a $60 million bribery probe.
Lanese, also a ranking member in the House, pushed back on her colleague’s sentiment about the election proving not to be a referendum on what the FBI determined to be the largest bribery scheme in state history. She said her efforts to repeal the legislation actually helped her win reelection earlier this month.
“When I went out campaigning, I led with that. I said ‘I’m sure you’ve heard about the scandal in Columbus. I did not vote for it and I am leading the repeal’,” Lanese said. “You can’t quantify what kind of support I got from that but I won my seat by much higher than they thought I would win by.”
The Grove City Republican introduced the first repeal bill on July 23, two days after the arrest of then-House Speaker Larry Householder and four of his accomplices on charges of racketeering for their roles in the alleged scheme to bail out two aging nuclear power plants.
The five men are accused of shepherding $60 million in energy company money for personal and political use in exchange for passing a legislative bailout of the plants and then derailing an attempt to place a rejection of the bailout on the ballot.
Householder, also a Republican, was one of the driving forces behind the nuclear plants’ financial rescue, which added a new fee to every electricity bill in the state and directed over $150 million a year through 2026 to the plants near Cleveland and Toledo. The longtime lawmaker and two of the men charged have pleaded not guilty to the charges.
In the days following the release of the affidavit, GOP lawmakers acted swiftly. A number of repeal bills were introduced and by the end of July, the majority party had voted to remove Householder as speaker and even chose his successor.
In one of his first acts as the newly-appointed speaker, Rep. Bob Cupp, of Lima, created a committee in August to oversee the future of the bailout bill.
But months later, as the General Assembly is winding down in a lame duck session — passing legislation to limit the governor’s powers during a pandemic and designating the monarch butterfly as the state official butterfly — the tainted legislation remains intact, with weeks left before the law will add a fee to every electricity bill in the state on Jan. 1.
The concern for Republicans like Seitz, Cupp and committee chairman Jim Hoops is that repealing the bill outright would have unintended consequences and they need more time to understand the complex legislation.
But Romanchuk believes his colleagues had enough time to dissect the bill when it first went through the House last year.
“Everybody knows what’s in this bill because we’ve already had to vote on it at one time last year,” Romanchuk, one of a number of GOP members who voted no for the bill’s passage, said. “So to deliberate further on the same policy doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.”
The other argument against repeal is that lawmakers would be throwing out the good with the bad. Rep. Kristin Boggs, who is one of the Democrats on the oversight committee, rejected the claim that the policy is sound.
“If it was great policy, it wouldn’t have cost so much to get it passed with bribes,” Boggs, of Columbus, said. “Great policy doesn’t need this kind of pressure to get done.
Turbine down: wind giant Vestas probes V150 collapse in Sweden
23 November 2020
By Andrew Lee
Wind OEM Vestas has launched an investigation after one of its latest turbines collapsed over the weekend in Sweden.
The V150 4.2MW came down late on Saturday evening amid high winds at the Aldermyrberget wind farm in northern Sweden after apparently buckling near the base of the tower, said developer Wpd.
Nobody was hurt in the incident which was reported by a snow-clearance worker on the site at the time and no other turbines were damaged, Maria Roske, CEO of Wpd in Sweden told Recharge.
“Vestas will carry out an investigation and inform us when they know the root cause,” said Roske, who described the incident as “very unusual”.
The turbine is one of 17 turbines with 230-metre tip-heights at the project that’s currently in the last stages of completion by Vestas before being handed over to Wpd at the end of the year.
Vestas head of communications Anders Riis confirmed the basic facts of the incident and that an investigation has been launched, although he added that it is too early in the process to gather any conclusions.
“The most important thing is that nobody got hurt. We have now initiated our root cause analysis and started gathering information,” Riis told Recharge.
The collapse in Sweden is the third incident this year involving the V150, which has been a huge commercial success for Vestas as wind farms around the world install more powerful machines.
In September a blade fell from a V150 in Ohio in the US, in an incident Vestas said had been traced to a one-off production issue.
A blade fall from a V150 in Australia in Octobr is still under investigation.
GE Renewable Energy in 2019 undertook a major investigation after a string of collapses affecting its wind turbines, concluding that a variety of factors rather than a single cause was at play.
The third in the sequence of turbine collapses in Nebraska.Photo: LuAnn Schindler
Top GE engineer lifts lid on wind turbine collapse probe findings
Major investigation suggests variety of factors rather than ‘single systemic issue’ behind first four of five incidents
13 September 2019 15:05
By Andrew Lee
GE’s investigation into a string of collapses of its wind turbines in 2019 suggests a variety of factors rather than “a single systemic issue” is behind the first four, the engineer leading the probe revealed to Recharge.
Ed Hall, engineering leader, onshore wind, at GE Renewable Energy said the sequence of five collapses – three in the US and two in Brazil (see panel at foot) – had sparked a major response involving more than 100 people and drawing in expertise from the wider General Electric group.
While the latest incident in Brazil on 3 September is still too recent for any conclusions, Hall gave Recharge an exclusive insight into the manufacturer’s findings of the root causes behind the first four topplings, which began in New Mexico in February.
They suggest two distinct categories of cause – two related to blades and two to control systems – but all ultimately resulting in machine instability and collapse.
“Two of the incidents involved blades coming apart during the operation of the turbine in high wind speeds, but resulting from different contributing factors,” Hall said.
“The other two incidents of the first four appear to be related to how our control systems responded to a sequence of events in the field.
“It does not appear that a single, systemic issue that affects the whole fleet is at play here. We’ve got separate areas that we need to investigate and resolve.”
Hall confirmed that unusually high wind speeds occurred before several of the collapses.
“That is correct. The reason [high winds] are important is that the higher the wind the more energy content is available in the operation of the machine. Just having that high energy content increases the potential for something to happen.”
The investigations and subsequent response have seen Hall and his colleagues reach out to experts in GE’s Power, Aviation and Research businesses, as they worked to understand the incidents that have made their turbines the subject of intense industry focus.
It is unusual for us to see five in a relatively short time.
Hall said: “It’s not unknown for these types of incidents to happen in the industry. The industry overall documents around 90 incidents since 2011.”
But he added: “It is unusual for us to see five in a relatively short time.”
The company’s wide-ranging response so far to the various issues uncovered, including blade inspections, supplier and manufacturing record checks, software updates and technical communications to operator and service personnel, has been done in a way to minimise impact on the GE operating fleet, he said. “I don’t believe there is a customer impact to production.”
A blade monitoring analytic has been developed in an effort to predict failures before they happen. “That analytic is now in place at over 150 wind farms, we will continue to propagate that worldwide,” said Hall.
Hall, a 17-year GE veteran, said all the investigations “are ongoing and will not be closed until we are satisfied solutions are fully identified and implemented”.
So can current and potential customers have confidence in GE Renewable Energy wind turbines?
“The industry can count on us to bring all our resources to bear to investigate and ultimately resolve these issues,” said Hall.
THE COLLAPSES AND WHAT WE KNOW
February 2019. 51MW Casa Mesa Wind Energy Center, New Mexico. Turbine: GE 2.5-127. Operator: NextEra Energy.
Ed Hall on what we know: “A combination of multiple factors while the turbine was in operation. A mechanical issue combined with an electrical issue led to the control system being a little slow to respond, the turbine progressed to an unstable operation and ultimately a blade struck the tower.”
May 2019: 65MW Chisholm View 2, Oklahoma. Turbine: GE 2.4-107. Operator: Enel Green Power.
What we know: “During the restart of a turbine, a hard reboot was performed. During the reboot while some of the protection systems were still coming online, the turbine progressed to an unstable operating condition.”
July 2019: 200MW Upstream Wind Energy Center, Nebraska. Turbine: GE 2.5-116. Operator: Invenergy.
What we know: “A blade that was damaged prior to installation was evaluated and repaired using our standard procedures. What was unknown was that there was additional damage hidden inside the blade that was not detected and that damage ultimately resulted in a crack and the blade detached near the point of repair. Under high wind operating conditions, that led to an imbalance and overwhelmed the tower.”
July 2019: 216MW Ventos de São Clemente wind complex, Pernambuco, Brazil. Turbine: GE 1.7-103. Operator: Echoenergia.
What we know: “The turbine had been operating for some time and in the course of that operation a crack developed in the blade. It was not detected during normal inspections, and ultimately grew larger and resulted in the blade detaching.”
September 2019: 54MW Delta 6 wind park, Maranhao, Brazil. Turbine: GE 2.7-116. Operator: Omega.
What we know: “It’s too early to comment or speculate on the root cause. It’s known technicians were at the turbine and performing some service on the turbine at the time. One of the technicians was injured and we’re doing everything we can to support that person and his family.”
Bifacial Solar Tariffs Back On After Court Ruling
The Trump administration’s solar tariff saga continues.
Emma Foehringer Merchant NOVEMBER 19, 2020
Bifacial panels can no longer enter the U.S. tariff-free.
After months of legal back-and-forth, a ruling in the U.S. Court of International Trade has reinstated tariffs on two-sided solar panels, giving the Trump administration a victory in its waning days.
Despite numerous attempts by the Trump administration to reimpose tariffs on bifacial solar panels, which the administration initially included in its broad solar tariffs in 2018 but exempted in 2019, legal challenges had largely put those tariffs on hold. The Thursday ruling allows the federal government to resume tariffs on imported two-sided panels.
“This litigation has taken many twists and turns,” wrote Judge Gary Katzmann in the decision. Ultimately, the court was “not persuaded” by arguments that a presidential proclamation released in October, which withdrew the Section 201 exclusion for bifacial panels, should be handled as part of an existing case challenging the U.S. Trade Representative’s attempted withdrawal of the same exemption. That means the presidential proclamation can be implemented. In addition to expanding tariffs to include bifacial solar, the proclamation increased the tariff level to 18 percent in the fourth year of the duties.
The change comes just two months before President-elect Joe Biden will take office. The tariffs are set to dissolve altogether in early 2022. It’s unclear if Biden will pursue a continuation of the tariffs. The president-elect also has the authority to reverse the proclamation post-inauguration, according to David Glynn, an attorney with Holland & Hart.
The presidential proclamation released in October suggested the Trump administration may pursue a tariff extension, although it now only has a few weeks left to do so.
The Solar Energy Industries Association, which was party to the litigation challenging the expansion of the tariffs, expressed disappointment with the court’s decision.
“The latest effort by the administration to reverse direction on the bifacial exclusion, as well as increase the Section 201 tariffs starting in February, is baseless,” John Smirnow, SEIA’s vice president of market strategy and general counsel, said in a statement.
Smirnow said SEIA plans to explore further legal options, including the possibility of filing a new case challenging the October presidential proclamation. Judge Katzmann’s ruling notes that the plaintiffs in the case, including SEIA, are still able to bring up their concerns in a separate action.
Invenergy, an energy developer and operator that was also a plaintiff in the case, declined to comment on the decision.
The Thursday ruling favors manufacturers with U.S. manufacturing facilities such as Hanwha Q Cells, Jinko Solar and LG. First Solar, which has a solar factory in Ohio and whose technology is also exempt from Section 201 tariffs, stands to see the biggest benefit.
Though the solar industry has been aware of the exclusion’s precarity for months, the change could cause ripples in the market for some.
“Some module suppliers have already priced in the tariff uncertainty during the contract negotiations, so buyers will not be surprised,” said Xiaojing Sun, a senior solar analyst at Wood Mackenzie. “However, there are also suppliers who took advantage of the tariff exemption and offered their customers really attractive bifacial-module pricing without the tariff. In those cases, the buyers and seller
November 17, 2020
Alliance Unveils Unprecedented Climate Policy Recommendations
Edit: James Watkins / CC 2.0
An alliance of groups representing farmers, forest owners, the food sector, state governments and environmental advocates today unveiled an unprecedented set of recommendations to guide the development of federal climate policy.
The Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance (FACA) was formed in February 2020 by four groups that now co-chair the alliance: American Farm Bureau Federation, Environmental Defense Fund, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, and National Farmers Union. The alliance has since expanded to include FMI – The Food Industry Association, National Alliance of Forest Owners, National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, and The Nature Conservancy.
Together, the group developed more than 40 recommendations based on three principles: agricultural and forestry climate policies must be built upon voluntary, incentive-based programs and market-driven opportunities; they must promote resilience and adaptation in rural communities; and they must be science-based. These recommendations share an overarching goal to do no harm. Climate policies will impact farmers, forest owners, ranchers, rural and limited-resources communities, wildlife and natural resources and must be thoughtfully crafted to account for any potential inequities, consequences and tradeoffs.
“We are proud to have broken through historical barriers to form this unique alliance focused on climate policy,” said Zippy Duvall, FACA Co-chair and President of the American Farm Bureau Federation. “We began discussions not knowing whether we would ultimately reach agreement. It was important to me to reject punitive climate policy ideas of the past in favor of policies that respect farmers and support positive change. Our final recommendations do just that.”
“The wide array of perspectives represented in this group — farmers, ranchers, forest owners and environmental advocates — sends a powerful message to Capitol Hill about the urgent need for bipartisan climate legislation,” said Fred Krupp, FACA Co-Chair and President of Environmental Defense Fund. “More resilient farms and forests protect the agricultural economy, reduce risk from the climate impacts that are already here and help prevent worsening climate impacts in the future.”
FACA Co-chair Chuck Conner, President of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, said, “Much as a farmer co-op gets its strength from uniting many producers to achieve a single goal, so too does FACA. Through FACA, the food, forestry and agriculture sectors can speak with a single voice on climate and, leveraging the unique perspectives and special talents of its members, help drive the conversation about the role that the food, forestry and agriculture sector can play in addressing climate policy.”
Rob Larew, FACA Co-chair and President of National Farmers Union, said, “Climate change is adding another enormous variable to the already unpredictable work of farming. Every year, farmers face more frequent and severe weather events, making it just that much harder to make a profit. There are concrete actions farmers can take to build resilience to weather extremes and pull carbon out of the atmosphere, but they need strong policy behind them. The recommendations we’ve compiled are a good place to start.”
Overview of climate policy recommendations
- Provide voluntary, incentive-based tools and additional technical assistance for farmers, ranchers and foresters to maximize the sequestration of carbon and the reduction of other greenhouse gas emissions, and increase climate resilience.
- Foster the development of private sector GHG markets. The public sector should ensure that verifiable reductions occur and provide farmers and forest owners with the technical support needed to participate.
- Use an array of public and private sector tools to incentivize agricultural and forestry producers to prioritize and scale climate-smart practices.
- Incentivize farmers to reduce energy consumption and increase on-farm renewable energy production, and make continued progress toward reducing the lifecycle GHG emissions of agriculture- and forestry-based renewable energy.
- Reduce the GHG impact of food waste and loss by streamlining confusing consumer-facing packaging and implementing a public-private partnership to achieve a meaningful and workable food date-labeling program.
- Increase federal investment in agriculture, forestry and food-related research substantially and continuously.
Read the full recommendations at www.agclimatealliance.com. They cover six areas of focus: soil health, livestock and dairy, forests and wood products, energy, research, and food loss and waste.
An Unlikely Alliance of Farm and Environmental Groups Takes on Climate Change
The new group will try to advance climate policies, even as some of its members are likely to clash. Critics say the group’s efforts won’t go far enough.
NOV 18, 2020
The American Farm Bureau Federation, the country’s largest and most powerful agricultural lobbying group, has long pushed against climate change legislation and worked closely with the fossil fuel industry to defeat it.
But on Tuesday, the Farm Bureau announced it had joined an unlikely alliance of food, forest, farming and environment groups that intends to work with Congress and the incoming Biden administration to reduce the food system’s role in climate change and reward farmers when they lower their greenhouse gas emissions.
“To be honest, we didn’t know whether we would ultimately reach an agreement,” said Farm Bureau president Zippy Duvall in a call with reporters. “We’re proud to have broken through historical barriers to achieve an unique alliance.”
Members of the new group, called the Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance, include the Environmental Defense Fund, the Nature Conservancy, the National Council of Farm Cooperatives and the National Farmers Union, among others. The organizations have been meeting for the better part of the last year and formally unveiled their partnership Tuesday.
“We’re not going to agree with them on everything going forward,” said Elizabeth Gore, senior vice president for political affairs at the Environmental Defense Fund. “But It was remarkable how we could find some common ground.”
The Washington-based agriculture lobbying powerhouse, the Russell Group, whose clients include high-profile agriculture, pharmaceutical and tobacco corporations, is overseeing the effort.
“One of the principal reasons that previous efforts to enact climate legislation have failed was that the agriculture, forestry and food industry communities were not unified,” said Randy Russell, the group’s founder, who said the goal of the alliance was to “work across the value chain.”
On Tuesday, the new group unveiled a set of 40 policy proposals that its members hope could make their way into legislation, be carried out through executive order or changed administratively under a Biden administration. The administration has said it wants to enlist farmers and the farming industry in climate solutions, including through U.S. Department of Agriculture programs that help farmers more easily participate in carbon markets.
The group’s recommendations range across six broad categories, including soil health, food waste and agriculture research. They include a proposal to give tax credits to farmers who can prove that they’ve stashed carbon in their soils and a USDA-led “carbon bank” that would set a minimum amount that farmers would be paid for cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
The food system generates about one-quarter to one-third of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions and increasingly has drawn the focus of policy makers. Reaching the necessary emissions cuts to keep warming under 2 degrees from pre-industrial levels will require an all-out effort—one that will fail unless food manufacturers and farmers are part of the solution, research finds. Most recently, a report from University of Oxford researchers, published in the journal Science, found that the food system alone will generate enough emissions to blow past the more ambitious 1.5-degree target of the Paris Climate agreement within four decades.
Emissions from the U.S. agriculture system have continued to climb.
Some critics on Tuesday applauded the group’s efforts, but said they would fall far short of the transformational changes needed in agriculture.
“These recommendations dodge some of the most important challenges for agriculture—namely, how do we facilitate a transition away from the primary ag-related sources of emissions: the overuse of synthetic fertilizers and the continued expansion of large-scale animal feeding operations and their excess manure,” said Ben Lilliston, director of rural strategies and climate change at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. “Voluntary, incentive-based approaches are important, but as long as this industrial system of production is in place, it will be difficult to get deeper traction at the speed with which is needed to meet the climate crisis.”
The farm economy, stung by the Trump administration’s trade wars with China and struggling with low commodity prices, has been cratering in recent years. Creating opportunities for farmers to sequester carbon in soils and forests—with tax credits or other incentives—and to participate in voluntary carbon markets, would give the industry a much-needed boost.
This is likely what has led to the industry’s new embrace of climate-related programs.
Led by the Farm Bureau, the industry has long fought off any kind of environmental regulation. The Farm Bureau’s “policy book”—an annual document that guides the group’s political efforts—explicitly says it does not support regulating greenhouse gas emissions from American farming operations. This year, the Farm Bureau’s members voted to approve an amendment to the policy book, saying it opposed “any laws or policies that implicate agricultural activity of any kind as a cause for climate change without empirical evidence.”
The Farm Bureau has officially stated it doubts that climate change is caused by human activity. Farm Bureau officials instead refer to “volatile weather” and “weather extremes,” when explaining the onslaught of droughts, floods and freak storms that have besieged American farms in recent years.
When asked Tuesday whether any new science has emerged to shift the organization’s positions, Duvall pointed to the policy book as evidence of the group’s acceptance of climate science and said, “Our farmers have been working on climate change for decades.”
All the proposals released Tuesday are voluntary.
“We have established some common ground,” Duvall said. “As long as there’s something our farmers can move into and not be forced, we think we can do a better job.”
The Farm Bureau’s board of directors approved the recommendations. “Farmers and ranchers want partnerships, not mandates, and the recommendations laid out by FACA make it clear that we would like a seat at the table when it comes to climate solutions,” Duvall said later, in a statement.
Climate denial is culturally and politically entrenched among many of the Farm Bureau’s 6 million members, who have been a formidable political ally to President Donald Trump. Farm Bureau members have expressed concern that a Biden administration will undo environmental rule changes that the farm industry has pushed for, including killing an Obama-era rule that sought to regulate farm water pollution.
In bringing together the new alliance, members stressed that the farm industry had to be involved in order to get buy-in on the climate proposals or the effort risked foisting blame and stoking resentment in agricultural communities.
“We wanted the farm, ranch community in at the ground level and to start with their priorities in mind, and I think that changes the conversion in a way that’s helpful to find a path going forward,” said Elizabeth Gore, senior vice president for political affairs at the Environmental Defense Fund. “Farmers are seeing the impact [of climate change] on their land, and regardless of what you want to call it or how you want it described, there’s an increased recognition that something’s happening and there needs to be some sort of response.”
Members say they believe the alliance can help boost the chances of two pieces of climate legislation introduced this year, including the Growing Climate Solutions Act, designed to help farmers participate in carbon markets, and the Rural Forests Markets Act, intended to help family forest owners find climate-sequestering strategies.
“We need to significantly scale up sustainable practices on farms and in forests that benefit producers and address the climate crisis. It’s great to see agriculture, forestry and environmental leaders teaming up to advance commonsense climate solutions,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, in a press release Tuesday. “I look forward to reviewing their recommendations and working with them to enact many of these policies into law.”
Ohio State OKs $37 million energy innovation center
Jennifer Smola The Columbus Dispatch
Ohio State’s board of trustees approved $31.5 million for construction of a new Energy Advancement and Innovation Center, one of the major projects planned for the university’s West Campus innovation district near the corner of Kenny Road and Lane Avenue. Combined with $5.2 in design services previously approved, the total project cost is $36.7 million.
University officials have called the planned center a “cornerstone” of its private energy partnership with Ohio State Energy Partners, a private company made up of French energy company ENGIE and Canadian investment firm Axium Infrastructure. It will be located near the Interdisciplinary Research Center also planned for the new West Campus district
The nearly 53,000-square-foot building will include approximately 14,000 square feet of dedicated lab space, 14,000 square feet of learning and gathering space, according to board materials. The facility will also include a 21-seat seminar room and 96-seat cafe.
Ohio State Energy Partners is contributing a total of $50 million to the project, which completely covers the cost of construction. Of the remaining funds, $7.5 million will be used as seed money for Ohio State ENGIE Labs projects, $4 million for building operating funds, and $1.8 million for west campus infrastructure.
Within the building, work will focus on finding “innovative solutions for energy reduction” and will develop and use innovations in sustainable building design, board materials said. The center’s focus will be developed by an advisory committee chaired by the university and consisting of members from Ohio State faculty and staff, Ohio State Energy Partners, and the Columbus community.
“This project represents the kind of innovation that will fully leverage Ohio State’s academic strengths with ENGIE’s industry expertise,” Serdar Tufekci, head of major campuses with ENGIE North America said in a press release. “We are eager to connect the innovation center to the global energy market and bring together technology, services, data and people to tackle some of the world’s toughest energy and sustainability challenges.”
Renewables giant Invenergy breaks ground on US’ biggest ever solar plant
Costed at $1.6bn, the 1.3GW Samson Solar Energy Center will supply AT&T, Honda, McDonald’s, Google, Home Depot and three cites in Texas once online in 2023
19 November 2020 11:25 GMT UPDATED 19 November 2020 11:36 GMT
By Darius Snieckus
US renewables giant Invenergy has begun building what will be the US’ largest ever solar farm, the 1.3GW Samson Solar Energy Center project in Texas, to supply five big-name commercial conglomerates and three municipalities in the state.
Now under construction, the developer’s $1.6bn Samson Solar Energy Center will power AT&T (500MW), Honda (200MW), McDonald’s (160MW), Google (100MW), Home Depot (50MW), and the cites of Bryan (150MW), Denton (75MW) and Garland (25MW), once online in 2023.
“Invenergy continues to lead the energy transition, and this record-setting project demonstrates our expertise at a new scale,” said Ted Romaine, Invenergy’s senior vice president of origination.
“The Samson Solar Energy Center is the latest example of what can be achieved when companies and utilities seek an innovative partner to meet their sustainability goals and invest in a clean energy future.”
The developer said the project demonstrated that renewables were now “powering daily American life” with “cleaner, cost-effective” electricity.
In a statement, Google said: “Google is the world’s largest corporate purchaser of renewable power, but we know addressing climate change will require even more ambitious action.
“That’s why, by 2030, we aim to run our business entirely on carbon-free energy, everywhere, at all times. We’re proud to join with a diverse range of businesses and communities to make innovative power projects a reality.”
AT&T technology and operations president Scott Mair said: “We believe renewable energy is good for the planet, for our business, and for the communities we serve. With more than 1.5GW of renewable energy capacity, [AT&T’s] portfolio delivers clean electricity to the grid, helps to create jobs and community benefits, and supports the transition to a low-carbon economy.”
Located in Lamar, Red River and Franklin Counties, Samson Solar is to be built over five phases, with the first expected to take 36 months.
Samson Solar is projected to drive “significant local economic development” in the region, creating over 600 jobs during construction and more than $250m in landowner payments, as well as supporting the three cities with nearly $200m in property tax payments over the life of the project.
Invenergy calculates it has to-date contracted more than 3.5GW of wind and solar capacity to more than 20 different corporate users across the US and Mexico.
PV and wind combined to generate a record 20% of electric power in the main Texas grid earlier this year, as both technologies accelerated their penetration in the largest US state power market at the expense of former leader coal.
Solar accounted for 2.83% of 40.3 million MWh of electricity generated in ERCOT, which serves about 90% of the state’s electric load, more than double the 1.3% in the same period a year earlier, according to the system operator.