3p Contributor: Andrew Burger

An independent journalist, researcher and writer, my work roams across the nexus where ecology, technology, political economy and sociology intersect and overlap. The lifelong quest for knowledge of the world and self -- not to mention gainful employment -- has led me near and far afield, from Europe, across the Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa and across the Americas. Twitter: @mightysparrow LinkedIn: andrew burger Google+: Andrew B Email: Huginn.Muginn@gmail.com

Recent Articles

Mars To Cut Carbon Emissions 25 Percent By Investing In Texas Wind Farm

| Wednesday April 30th, 2014 | 0 Comments

GE1.7WindTurbineU.S. candy and food products multinational Mars is taking bold steps towards meeting ambitious triple-bottom-line sustainability goals. Aiming to be completely carbon-neutral by 2040, today Mars announced it is partnering with the Sumitomo Corporation of Americas and BNB Renewable Energy Holdings to build a wind farm in Texas capable of producing enough renewable electricity to power all of its U.S. operations.

Mars, Sumitomo Americas and BNB are partnering to build Mesquite Creek Wind, a 200-megawatt (MW) wind farm comprising 118 General Electric wind turbines that will equal Mars’ electricity use for 100 percent of its operations in the U.S. This encompasses 70 sites, 37 Mars factories and 25,000 employees, according to a company press release.

Located on 25,000 acres near the Texas town of Lamesa, Mesquite Creek Wind will be able to generate 800,000 megawatt-hours (MWh) of clean, renewable electricity. That amount of clean energy represents 24 percent of Mars’ total global factory and office carbon footprint, making Mars’ investment in Mesquite Creek Wind “the biggest long-term commitment to renewable energy use of any food manufacturing business in the country,” the company highlights.

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Removing Policy Uncertainty Key to Clean Energy Growth, Report Finds

| Wednesday April 30th, 2014 | 0 Comments

USWindTurbMtnsACOREU.S. renewable energy generation capacity has been growing rapidly for more than a decade, spurred on by technological advances and supportive government policies. However, present uncertainty in U.S. energy policies threatens to take the wind out of the renewable energy sector’s sails, according to a new report from the American Council on Renewable Energy’s (ACORE) U.S. Partnership for Renewable Energy Finance (U.S. PREF).

More than $300 billion has been invested in the U.S. renewable energy sector over the past ten years, as a growing number and range of private sector businesses capitalize on supportive policies and programs at the local, state and federal levels. That’s driven well-above average growth in “green” job creation and boosted economic development and growth in local communities and states throughout the nation, as well as enhanced social and environmental health and integrity, ACORE CEO Michael Brower highlights in a news release.

“Federal tax policy has worked, stimulating strong private investment in the past several years and significant system cost reduction, with wind down 43 percent and solar down 80 percent since 2008,” added Todd Foley, ACORE’s senior vice president for policy and government relations. “However, lack of policy certainty puts new investment and market momentum at risk.”

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Commercial and Industrial Project Developers Sign Up For SaaS Energy-Efficiency Platform

| Monday April 28th, 2014 | 0 Comments

led-lit-bridgeFinancing options for commercial and industrial businesses to carry out energy efficiency projects are expanding, spurred forward by the success of innovative financing vehicles for solar photovoltaic (PV) systems large and small.

Having recently launched a $30 million debt fund to finance capital leases and performance-based, off-balance-sheet energy reduction shared-service agreements (SSAs), Noesis Energy on April 17 announced that 28 energy project developers had signed up to use the Noesis Pro software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform to design, analyze, propose and finance energy efficiency projects for commercial and industrial (C&I) buildings during the first quarter.

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Intel, High-Tech Leaders Rank High On Green Power Partnership Top 100

| Friday April 25th, 2014 | 0 Comments

GPPNationalTop100The shift from fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy sources is well under way, offering societies worldwide a means of resolving longstanding and growing economic, social and environmental problems. A key, pivotal driver: The U.S. government has stepped up its efforts to promote and foster development and deployment of alternative, clean energy resources and technology during President Barack Obama’s two terms in office.

Forging strong public-private partnerships has, in turn, been central to the Obama administration’s clean energy strategy, and public recognition has been one aspect of this. On April 23, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Green Power Partnership (GPP) updated its list of the top 100 organizations voluntarily using electricity generated from clean, renewable sources, such as wind and solar power. High-tech companies, including Intel, Microsoft, Google and Apple, feature prominently.

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Department of the Interior Launches Landscape Mitigation Strategy

| Tuesday April 22nd, 2014 | 0 Comments

InteriorMitigationStratLaunching a landscape-based mitigation strategy on April 10, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell took a bold step forward in the management and stewardship of U.S. public lands. Harnessing a variety of new tools and taking a holistic, science-driven and collaborative public-private sector approach to public lands management and stewardship, the Department of the Interior’s landscape-scale mitigation strategy aims to reconcile the often conflicting goals of development and conservation.

With the new strategy, the department aims to encourage the dual objectives of smart development and conservation by providing “clarity and consistency to more effectively avoid, minimize and compensate for impacts on public lands.”

As Secretary Jewell explained in a press release: “This strategy outlines the key principles and actions we need to take to successfully shift from a reactive, project-by-project approach to more predictable and effective management of the lands and resources that we manage on behalf of the American public.

“The goal is to provide greater certainty for project developers when it comes to permitting and better outcomes for conservation through more effective and efficient project planning. Through advances in science and technology, advance planning, and collaboration with stakeholders, we know that development and conservation can both benefit – and that’s the win-win this mitigation strategy sets out to achieve.”

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U.S. Wind Energy Could Double, But It’s Deja-vu All Over Again in Congress

| Monday April 21st, 2014 | 2 Comments

US Annual Wind Power Capacity Additions - 5 year avg - 2009-2013Last year got off to a shaky start for the U.S. wind energy industry, but new project construction and installed generation capacity took off following belated Congressional extension of the federal renewable energy production tax credit (PTC). By year’s end a record number of wind energy projects were under construction, and new wind energy generation records had been set across the country.

By the end of 2013, 46,100 wind turbines on 905 utility-scale wind farms with rated generation capacity of 61,110 megawatts (MW) were online, producing more than 4 percent of U.S. electricity generation, according to the American Wind Energy Association’s (AWEA), “U.S. Wind Industry Annual Market Report 2013.”

Wind energy investment has been growing at a 19.5 percent annual rate over the past five years, with an average $15 billion per year invested in new projects. With costs dropping 43 percent between 2008 and 2012, wind energy is now providing clean, renewable electricity to the equivalent of 15.5 million U.S. homes across 39 states and Puerto Rico, and the U.S. economy and society is benefiting in numerous other ways.

Momentum is still very much dependent on the federal wind energy PTC, however. As Congress once again debates whether or not to extend the PTC, wind energy industry companies, their employees and suppliers can only watch, wait and make contingency plans.

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Coastal Ecosystem Restoration Yields Remarkable Returns

| Thursday April 17th, 2014 | 1 Comment

coastecorestorCAPCvr In an increasingly urbanized, technologically complex and consumption-driven society, it’s easy to lose sight of the advantages and benefits to be realized, as well as our fundamental reliance on, ecosystems and the services they provide.

Yet even as our preoccupation with jobs, economic growth and development has continued to intensify, we’ve been gaining greater understanding, and appreciation, of the value of ecosystems and ecosystem services — not just in terms of environmental health and safety, but for their economic and broader social value as well.

On April 9, the Center for American Progress (CAP) and Oxfam America released, “The Economic Case for Restoring Coastal Ecosystems,” a report that highlights the remarkable economic value and benefits realized by coastal ecosystem restoration projects carried out right here in the U.S.

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Global Renewable Energy Investment Drops, But Installed Capacity Rises

| Wednesday April 16th, 2014 | 0 Comments

offshorewindFSUNEPRenewable energy investment fell year-over-year in 2013, down 14 percent, but the drop belies some heartening news for market participants and clean energy supporters. In short: Renewable energy’s share of overall power generation continues to grow, and more renewable energy generation capacity is being brought online at much lower cost, solar energy generation capacity in particular.

According to the latest global renewable energy annual report from the Frankfurt School-United Nations Environment Programme Collaborating Centre (FS-UNEP) and Bloomberg New Energy Finance, global renewable energy investment totaled $214 billion in 2013, a second consecutive year of decline and 23 percent below a 2011 peak. Even so, renewable energy accounted for 43.6 percent of new power capacity, while renewable energy’s share of worldwide electricity generation rose to 8.5 percent from 7.8 percent in 2012.

There were several other reasons for optimism regarding the outlook for renewable energy, according to FS-UNEP-BNEF’s, “Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2014.” For one thing, some 1.2 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions were avoided as a result of renewable power generation last year. But that’s not all.

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Transmission for Renewables: Cheaper and Greener Than Natural Gas Pipelines

| Tuesday April 15th, 2014 | 2 Comments

3ÒÀReducing carbon emissions, boosting energy and water resource efficiency, creating green jobs and boosting local economies, and reducing waste and the potential for conflicts – numerous studies, and actual results – have shown the substantial triple bottom line benefits of bringing renewable energy systems and power transmission infrastructure online.

When it comes to energy, the U.S. has thrived on fossil fuels, however. Expanding to become the largest, most profitable multinational businesses in history, U.S. oil and gas companies have conveyed dependence on, as well as the costs and benefits of, these fossil fuels globally. Along the way, securing steady, affordable supplies of oil and natural gas became the central pillar of U.S. national security, as well as energy, policy.

Our ongoing dependence on, and affinity for, oil and natural gas shows through clearly in numerous instances, one of the most controversial of which is the proposed construction of Keystone XL, as well as numerous other natural gas pipelines. According to recent industry-unaffiliated studies, however, investing in renewable energy transmission infrastructure would not only be better from environmental and social perspectives, but it would also be a lot cheaper and give the U.S. a much bigger bang for its energy buck.

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Rio Tinto Pulls Out Of Pebble Mine, Gifts Shares to Nonprofits

| Monday April 14th, 2014 | 0 Comments

copperDealing another major setback to Northern Dynasty Minerals’ plans to develop the world’s largest known undeveloped copper ore deposit, multinational mining giant Rio Tinto, the project’s sole remaining major mining company backer, announced it is divesting its 19.1 percent equity stake in the junior Canadian mining company.

Rio Tinto is taking an extraordinary step in the way of divestment: Rather than trying to find a buyer for its Northern Dynasty shares, management announced it is gifting them to two local nonprofit organizations, dividing them equally between the Alaska Community Foundation and the Bristol Bay Native Corp. Education Foundation.

Situated on state land in southwest Alaska at the headwaters of the Bristol Bay watershed, Northern Dynasty aims to build North America’s largest open-pit copper mine at the Pebble Mine site. The Bristol Bay area is also home to one of the world’s richest remaining wild salmon habitat and Alaska’s richest fisheries, however.

IHS Global Insight projects the extraction and processing of copper, gold and molybdenum ore from the Pebble Mine site will create 15,000 jobs and provide a more than $2.5-billion boost to U.S. GDP over at least a 20-year period. Set on the scales against the project is the the value of the Bristol Bay fishery and watershed, which opponents contend would be threatened and significantly degraded, if not destroyed, were the Pebble Mine project to be developed — taking local communities and ways of life along with it.

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McDonald’s Recognizes 51 Suppliers With 2014 ‘Best of Sustainable Supply’ Awards

| Monday April 14th, 2014 | 0 Comments

McD2014SustainableSupplyAwardsAs one of the world’s widest ranging multinational corporations, McDonald’s, has received its fair share of criticism — whether the issues are social, environmental or economic. That’s certainly the case when it comes to the overall sustainability of McDonald’s far-flung network of fast-food restaurants and suppliers. The company has also garnered negative attention for its influence and impact on people’s eating habits and nutrition, as well as the wages and benefits it offers employees.

Yet McDonald’s, as is true of a growing number of multinationals, has been dedicating an increasing amount of resources, time and effort to develop a strategic vision and implement sustainable business methods and practices that improve and enhance the social and environmental, as well as economic, impacts of its operations.

Aiming to spur sustainable business methods and practices throughout its vast network of suppliers, McDonald’s on April 1 announced the winners of its 2014 “Best of Sustainable Supply” awards.

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Clean Solar Initiative II To Add 100 MW of Solar Power on Long Island

| Friday April 11th, 2014 | 0 Comments

lipa-logoResidents of New York’s Long Island (2010 estimated population 7.568 million) will be getting more of their electricity from clean, renewable solar energy as the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) and PSEG Long Island move forward with the second-round Clean Solar Initiative (CSI-2). Following a four-month application period that ended Jan. 31, the Long Island electric utility on April 2 announced that it had chosen 76 projects out of a prospective 178 CSI-2 proposals in a bid to bring an additional 100 megawatts (MW) of solar power online — enough to power some 13,000 homes.

PSEG Long Island conducted a clearing auction to determine a final bid price of $0.1688 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) for the second-round solar energy feed-in tariff (FiT). That’s the fixed rate the utility will pay to project developers over the life of their 20-year power purchase agreements (PPAs) with the utility.

CSI-2′s final bid price is almost 25 percent lower than the prices being paid for solar energy generation via CSI-1, LIPA and PSEG Long Island’s first solar feed-in tariff (FiT) — an annual savings of $8.1 million, PSEG Long Island director of Energy Efficiency and Renewables stated in a press release.

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Water-Energy Nexus: Utah Approves Largest Solar Power Park

| Friday April 11th, 2014 | 0 Comments

UnivUtahSolarScatec Solar on April 1 received final approvals from the Utah Public Service Commission and Iron County Community Development and Renewal Agency to start building what will be Utah’s largest solar energy facility.

Under the terms of a 20-year Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with PacifiCorp, the 80-megawatt (MW) AC Utah Red Hills Renewable Energy Park will supply clean, renewable electricity to residents in far-off Idaho and Wyoming, as well as Utah, through Rocky Mountain Power.

The project highlights the social and environmental, as well as economic, benefits and advantages to deploying solar and other renewable energy sources as opposed to conventional fossil fuels. Those aren’t limited to green job creation and reducing carbon emissions, but extend to the conservation of increasingly precious freshwater resources.

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Volkswagen Biodiversity Initiative To Establish Nature Corridor in Mexico

| Thursday April 10th, 2014 | 1 Comment

VWThinkBlueOn April 8 Volkswagen (VW), the owner-operator of the largest auto manufacturing plant in North America in Puebla, Mexico, launched an ambitious, pioneering biodiversity and ecological sustainability initiative to help establish a protected biological corridor that will assure local wildlife has the habitat and migratory paths required for their survival. The program also aims to instill a healthy environmental ethic in Mexico’s youth and communities.

With its “Think Blue” strategy, VW has sought to firmly ingrain and establish ecological, as well as economic and social, sustainability principles in its core organizational values, operating policies and procedures. The results of this effort are evident in the company’s “green” manufacturing facility outside Chattanooga, Tenn.

VW is taking that a step further with the “Think Blue. Nature.” program. The world’s third-largest auto manufacturer, VW, is allocating an initial €260,000 (~$358,800) as the first private sponsor of the Corredor Ecologico Sierra Madre Oriental (CESMO) (Eastern Sierra Madre Ecological Corridor), a 4 million-hectare area spanning five Mexican states that provides habitat for some 650 endangered species.

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German Renewable Electricity Consumption Hits Record High 25.4 Percent in 2013

| Wednesday April 9th, 2014 | 0 Comments

germanyoffshoreturbineEuropean economic and fiscal woes, push-back from utilities and the influx of cheap imports from China have created stiff headwinds for Germany’s homegrown renewable energy sector in recent years. Nonetheless, renewable energy reached a record 25.4 percent of Germany’s total electricity consumption in 2014, according to the latest annual statistics from the Working Group on Renewable Energy Statistics (AGEE-Stat), an increase of nearly 2 percent from 2012.

Totaling 53,400 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) and up 5.1 percent year-over-year, onshore and offshore wind energy, at 34.4 percent, accounted for the greatest percentage of renewable electricity consumption in Germany. Despite a sharp scaling down in feed-in tariff (FiT) rates for residential solar photovoltaic (PV) installations, a total 30 million kWh of solar PV was consumed, up 13.7 percent from 26.38 million kWh in 2012.

As the German Embassy noted in a recent news item, “Solar energy implementation has been extremely successful in Germany over the past decade. Solar farms in the south broke records in 2013 for energy production and have continued to produce high levels over the winter.”

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