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Obama administration overseeing explosion in renewables on public land

The Bush administration issued more than 40,000 permits for oil and gas drilling on public lands, but approved zero solar projects (even though they received 300 applications). In contrast, in 2010 alone the Bureau of Land Management approved 9 solar projects representing 3,682 megawatts of electric power, reports Climate Central. Why the difference? According to Chase Huntley of the Wilderness Society, the Obama administration is committed to permitting new renewable projects: "This administration is taking action, not just tap dancing on process." Giant government bureaucracies are hard to change, though, so it's going to take a lot of time and …

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Norway plans billion-dollar clean energy fund for world’s poor

What is it about those hoar-frosted Scandinavians that makes them crazy ambitious when it comes to clean energy? First it was Denmark's promise to go 100 percent renewable; now their buddies in Norway want to launch a billion-dollar fund for building renewable energy in the developing world. Norway has already pledged more than $500 million a year to stop deforestation in Indonesia, so they're probably for real when they say that they want the "Energy+" initiative to attract billions in investment from developed countries, all of it aimed at building solar, wind, and hydro in the developing world. Only problem …

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Cost of adding tons of renewables to U.S. electric grid has been almost zero, say studies

Many states have "renewable portfolio standards" mandating that they produce a certain percentage of their electricity from renewable sources. Libertarian and tea bag-ish critics of these standards have said that they will cause electricity rates to "skyrocket." But the numbers are in, and guess what? Science says the critics are wrong. Utility companies’ experiences vary a bit, but on the whole energy costs are barely being nudged by renewable standards, reports Midwest Energy News. In fact, far from being a financial drain, wind power is the most economic option in some places, such as the portion of the Dakotas and western …

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How community ownership can save wind power

This post originally appeared on Energy Self-Reliant States, a resource of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance's New Rules Project.     Community ownership may provide the solution for increasing resistance to wind power in the United States. Wind power has expanded rapidly in recent years, but the new wind farms have a common characteristic: absentee ownership. These large wind farms promise a broad expansion of clean energy production, but not a commensurate expansion in local economic benefits. True, every wind power project will create some jobs and ripple effects in the local economy, but with absentee ownership, most project benefits will leave …

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Bill Gates on energy philanthropy, R&D funding, & why the U.S. will out-innovate China

Bill Gates goes casual at the Climate Solutions breakfast.Photo: nonfictionmediaThe Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation -- the richest in the world, with an endowment of $37 billion -- doesn't have plans to focus on clean energy and climate change, Bill Gates said on Tuesday. Speaking at a fundraiser for Northwest nonprofit Climate Solutions, he argued that energy markets and investments are too large for philanthropic money to make much of a dent. But Gates is investing in energy-tech startups himself -- he called out nuclear company TerraPower in particular -- and he hopes those investments make money that can then …

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Want local communities to support wind? Put them in charge

Let's turn NIMBYs into YIMBYs.Photo: Eddie CodelThis post originally appeared on Energy Self-Reliant States, a resource of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance's New Rules Project. Last month, Grist's Jess Zimmerman noted sarcastically that "Money is a miracle cure for 'wind turbine syndrome.'" It is. And environmental advocates frustrated by the (spurious?) health and aesthetic complaints raised by not-in-my-backyard (NIMBY) actors would do well to consider why. The implication of her post (and this attitude in general) is that we can't green our energy system without sacrifice. Getting to big carbon reductions will require enormous new renewable energy development and it will …

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Offshore wind power to explode to 17 times its current capacity in just six years

Offshore wind will reach 70.1 GW of capacity by 2017, says Pike Research. That's 17 times its current capacity, which is 4.1 GW, and amounts to several times the current maximum solar capacity of the most solared-out country in the world, Germany. Europe is currently in the lead on offshore power, but by 2017, China will pull even. (The U.S. will be in the mix somewhere too, if we can get those Nantucket swells to settle down.) We’re mostly talking about ocean wind farms, but a portion of this new capacity will come from freshwater offshore installations, such as in …

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An underwater grid for offshore wind, funded by Google

I have a feature story in the latest issue of Popular Science: "Hundreds of Miles of Wind Farms, Networked Under the Sea." It's about the Atlantic Wind Connection, a new project (funded, in part, by Google) that would lay high-voltage transmission lines beneath the sea floor along the mid-Atlantic coast, opening the area up to offshore wind developers. I managed to get through the article without using the tired term "game changer," but ... this is a Big Deal. Here's how the story begins: During the last ice age, glaciers a mile high pushed several dozen cubic miles of rock, …

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Google to buy 100.8 megawatts of Oklahoma wind energy

Google's Oklahoma wind farm will be built this year.Photo: Marcin WicharyIt's getting a bit hard to keep up with all of Google's green investments these days -- $168 million put into a big solar power plant project one week; $100 million for the world's largest wind farm the next. But this week's big money move -- the third so far this month -- is different. It also involves wind but is a power purchase agreement (known as a PPA in the utility trade) rather than a direct investment in a specific project. The deal with wind developer NextEra Energy Resources …

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Cape Wind approved: The U.S. could have offshore wind this year

The nation's first offshore wind farm could start construction as early as this fall. The Cape Wind project got final approval for its operating plans today, after ten years of opposition and permitting headaches. Michael Bromwich, last seen terrifying Rachel Maddow on the subject of deepwater drilling, said that the wind farm "will accelerate interest in the renewable energy sector generally and the offshore wind sector specifically, and spur innovation and investment in our nation’s energy infrastructure.” (At least if he's wrong on this one, it'll probably be okay.) Renewables fans are pleased: "Once fully operational, the wind farm will …