Solar power’s prospects become brighter each day.
One way to flip that light switch even higher is community solar, in which local neighborhoods or villages share ownership of a solar power system. At our second Frontiers in the Environment “Big Questions” talk October 7, IonE resident fellow Kathryn Milun, a professor of anthropology at the University of Minnesota Duluth, presented the case for this renewable energy approach in “Why Do We Need Community Solar?”
Here are six things we learned:
What part does solar energy have to play in Minnesota’s energy future? Ellen Anderson, executive director of the Energy Transition Lab — supported by IonE, the University of Minnesota Office of the Vice President for Research and the Law School — addressed that big question recently on Minnesota Public Radio’s Climate Cast program. Anderson explained how Minnesota’s community solar laws are helping expand solar energy in the state and called for more permanent and consistent policies and investments to insure success in renewable markets.
Listen to the broadcast.
Photo by BlackRockSolar (Flickr/Creative Commons)
This article is reprinted with permission from the University of Minnesota.
IonE resident fellow Elizabeth Wilson has been selected to the inaugural class of Andrew Carnegie Fellows. Wilson, a leading researcher in energy and environmental policy and law, is one of 32 scholars chosen from more than 300 nominees. She will receive a $200,000 award to support her research examining the complex relationship between renewable and nuclear energy, climate change and economic development, and how policy drives the evolution of energy systems. Continue reading
The Energy Transition Lab, supported by the Institute on the Environment, the Office of the Vice President for Research and the Law School, brings together leaders in government, business and nonprofit organizations to develop new energy policy pathways, institutions and regulations.
In this audio clip, Hari Osofsky, ETL’s faculty director, Law School professor and IonE resident fellow, discusses the lab’s goals and what communities and business and utility partners are doing to bring the energy system into the 21st century with WTIP North Shore Community Radio.
Photo by mwwile (Flickr Creative Commons)
Even at historically low natural gas prices, bioenergy may not be out of the running — it just may need a little help from the sun. A new study from researchers at the University of Minnesota examining the financial viability of solar-heated biomass gasification technologies that produce a natural gas substitute product concludes that combining these renewable resources can make economic sense.
In traditional biomass gasification, 20 to 30 percent of the biomass feedstock is burned to produce heat for the process. But if the required thermal energy is supplied from a concentrated solar source, all of the biomass can be converted into useful synthesis gas. The study, published in Biomass and Bioenergy this week, developed a financial feasibility metric to determine the breakeven price of natural gas at which the produced syngas could be sold at a profit. The study suggests that solar-heated biomass gasification systems could break even at natural gas prices of $4.04–$10.90 per gigajoule, depending on configuration. Continue reading
Reprinted by permission from the University of Minnesota Law School.
Our energy system is in the midst of a major transition. Power sources are shifting from coal to more natural gas and renewables. The aging grid needs to adapt, becoming “smarter,” more flexible and resilient. New greenhouse gas emissions regulations and a changing climate add further complexities.
This transition has the potential to spark innovation in business and government, leading to new jobs and a cleaner environment, and the University of Minnesota has launched the Energy Transition Lab to help turn this potential into reality. Ellen Anderson, a former state senator and energy advisor to Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton, is the ETL’s inaugural executive director; its faculty director is Law School professor Hari Osofsky, an expert in energy law and an IonE resident fellow. Continue reading
This week’s Frontiers in the Environment was presented David Letterman–style by Energy Transition Lab executive director Ellen Anderson and Energy Transition Lab faculty director Hari Osofsky, who is also an IonE resident fellow and Law School professor. The pair explored the “Top 10” key areas of energy transition and the Energy Transition Lab’s role in them. Continue reading
Please join us this Friday, Sept. 26, 10–11 am at IonE for a discussion about Minnesota’s role in implementing the Clean Power Plan, a vital piece of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is proposing regulations that build on actions being taken across the country to reduce carbon pollution from power plants, the single largest source of carbon pollution in the United States. Nationwide by 2030, the Clean Power Plan will help cut carbon emissions from the power sector by 30 percent below 2005 levels. The proposal also would cut pollution that leads to the formation of soot and smog by over 25 percent in 2030, according to the EPA website. Continue reading
Environmentalists in the United States have long pushed for reductions in carbon emissions. Now, it seems the era of carbon regulation may be upon us.
But implementing these complex regulations is complicated and takes place at both the federal and state levels. This was the topic of Fresh Energy science policy director J. Drake Hamilton’s Frontiers in the Environment lecture last Wednesday, April 30 on the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul campus.
In “Adventures on the Frontiers of Carbon Reduction,” Hamilton emphasized the need to educate the public on new and existing policies impacting carbon emissions for broader public involvement.
People of color in the U.S. are exposed to 38 percent more nitrogen dioxide air pollution in the neighborhoods in which they live than are white people, according to new research from the University of Minnesota. The exposure they receive results in approximately 7,000 heart-related deaths per year.
U of M Instititute on the Environment resident fellows Julian Marshall and Dylan Millet and fellow researcher Lara Clark compared U.S. Census data and nitrogen dioxide levels in cities across the country and found that, irrespective of income, nonwhites had higher average exposure to nitrogen dioxide than whites. The findings received extensive coverage in the media this past week. Continue reading
Satellite imagery of the Upper Midwest at night shows a massive cluster of light in western North Dakota, easily dwarfing the metropolitan areas of Minneapolis-St. Paul, Milwaukee or even Chicago.
The source of this apparent high plains metropolis isn’t a city at all, but rather the Bakken shale oil field, where producers are flaring as much as 266,000 million cubic feet of natural gas each day.
This abundance of natural gas — mostly composed of methane — was the topic of First Green Partners co-president Doug Cameron’s Frontiers in the Environment lecture last Wednesday, Mar. 26 on the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul campus.
In “Methane: Black Hat or White Hat in the Green Economy,” Cameron discussed the pros and cons of the abundant fuel source and why environmentalists shouldn’t be so quick to discount methane as a “quick fix.”
I’ve been studying up on Canadian energy resources. The short summary is that Canada has a lot of resources. The other summary is that the United States (including Minnesota, where I’m from) has a lot of interests in Canadian energy. Like most energy issues, it’s complex. It’s a collision of our modern economy dependent on electricity at the flip of a switch and travel as easy as hopping in a car, with the impacts of developing increasingly hard-to-get, non-renewable energy resources — all in an increasingly unstable climate with a whole host of impacts on more localized communities.
This week I am going to Canada to learn about energy on a Pan-Praire Energy Tour organized by the Canadian government. The places I’ll visit are Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The energy resources: oil sands, uranium, carbon capture and storage (not a resource, but an important stop), large hydro and renewable resources. We’ll also be discussing many issues surrounding these resources, including First Nation relationships and climate change. Continue reading
Outdoor air pollution from factories and automobiles seems to dominate the news. But there’s another, just as sinister, form of pollution and it’s coming from inside the house.
Ellison Carter, a postdoctoral fellow in energy, air pollution and health at the Institute on the Environment, discussed her research on environmental and health impacts of indoor air pollution at Frontiers in the Environment in February.
In her presentation, “Where There’s Smoke…Evaluating the Benefits of Household Energy Improvements in Developing Countries,” Carter explained why indoor air pollution in developing nations is a particularly challenging problem.
Minnesota farmers spend more than $400 million per year on nitrogen fertilizer. To keep more dollars in the Gopher State and reduce fossil fuel consumption in agriculture, the University of Minnesota’s West Central Research and Outreach Center is using wind energy to produce anhydrous ammonia that can be used as fertilizer. The project was funded through an IonE Initiative for Renewable Energy & the Environment grant. Continue reading
A global partnership led by Institute on the Environment researcher Jill Baumgartner will investigate the health and climate impacts of advanced cooking and heating stoves as part of a three-year study on clean household energy technology in rural China. Continue reading
There you are, hunkered over your sink, hands wrist-deep in hot water, swiping suds over food-crusted dinner plates. That squishy, soapy thing that’s helping you do so many daily chores…ever wonder where its life began and where it will end?
That sponge, like everything on the planet, has a life cycle, composed of all the materials and energy that brought it to your sink and all the tasks it will help you complete until you’ve squeezed the last bit of work from it and tossed it into the trash. Continue reading
In an age when debates over fracking and renewable energy dominate the news, it’s increasingly clear that the United States is in the midst of an “energy renaissance.” Along with a host of environmental concerns, the nation’s changing energy system faces a new, often overlooked, challenge: How can we get energy from its source to the people who need it?
That was the topic of Institute on the Environment resident fellow and University of Minnesota Law School professor Alexandra Klass’ Frontiers in the Environment lecture Dec. 4.
In “Transporting Energy: U.S. Infrastructure Challenges,” Klass discussed her research on the physical and regulatory system in place for moving oil, natural gas and electricity and possible changes needed as the nation’s energy sources diversify.
(12/6) A student proposal to develop a renewable fuel–enabled free piston engine captured the $10,000 top prize in a Dow Sustainability Innovation Student Challenge Award (SISCA) competition held Thursday at the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment. Read more
Photo credit: Nancy Johnson, ME Department