Nov 18

Legal fight over shuttered Falmouth turbines drags on

Legal fight over shuttered Falmouth turbines drags on

By Christine Legere

Fog enshrouds one of Falmouth’s wind turbines located at the wastewater treatment plant in July. In the summer, a judge ruled that both of the town’s turbines should be shut down after deeming them a nuisance to neighbors, and town officials subsequently decided not to continue the legal battle. Now, other Falmouth residents are arguing to be allowed to intervene in the case.


FALMOUTH — A Hatchville-based group, seeking reconsideration of a court judgment that permanently shut down two town-owned wind turbines, does not have the standing needed to file a motion to intervene and has made its move too late, according to an attorney representing a neighbor of one of the turbines.

Both sides filed their positions in Barnstable Superior Court late this week.

At issue is a June 20 ruling by Barnstable Superior Court Judge Cornelius Moriarty to uphold a decision by the Falmouth Zoning Board of Appeals that the turbines were a nuisance to Barry and Diane Funfar.

The ruling resulted in both turbines being shuttered.

Wind 1 went online in 2010 and Wind 2 began operating in February 2012. Their operation almost immediately drew intense opposition from neighbors, who said they were experiencing turbine-related health issues and were concerned about their property values. Several neighbors filed lawsuits to get the turbines shut down.

Wind 1 has been shut down since 2015 when it was denied a special permit by the Zoning Board of Appeals. Wind 2 was ordered permanently shut down in June when Moriarty deemed the operation of both turbines a nuisance to neighbors.

Selectmen, who had filed the court action to overturn the zoning board’s decision, decided not to appeal Moriarty’s ruling.

Late last month, the Green Center and a dozen citizens filed the motion asking to be allowed to intervene, arguing taxpayer interests had not been adequately protected by town officials.

The group emphasized it is not trying to overturn the court’s ruling, but is seeking a court hearing to present some alternative remedies to a total shutdown of the machines.

On Friday, Barry Funfar expressed frustration that the debate over the turbines continues.

“To me, the ones who filed the motion aren’t just regular citizens,” he said. “It’s more like a political coalition advocating for green energy.”

Paying the attorney costs for turbine suits has forced the 71-year-old to remortgage his house three times.

“We’ve essentially lost our home,” Funfar said. “I have the feeling my best years were used fighting the turbines. I’m never going to be able to reclaim what I had.”

Attorney James Rosenblum, representing the Funfars, argued in his submission that the people looking to intervene have no stake in the issue other than as local taxpayers and town residents, which isn’t sufficient to give them legal standing.

“What they have is a sort of generalized interest in wind power that qualifies for resolution in the political sphere alone, e.g. by petitioning their elected town representatives for action — which they did — or by voting those representatives out of office, which they can try to do,” Rosenblum wrote.

In his rebuttal, Green Center’s attorney George Boerger wrote that his clients don’t need to establish standing to file a motion to intervene in an existing case.

Rosenblum argued the motion comes too late in any case.

“The case has already been decided on judgment, the time for motion for a new trial and for reconsideration of judgment has elapsed, and the time for appeal has elapsed,” he wrote.

In response, Boerger argued the motion filed by the Green Center was made five months after Moriarty’s ruling. A motion for relief from judgment can be made up to a year after a decision, in certain instances, and within “a reasonable time” for all others.

The motion was not filed earlier because it wasn’t apparent that taxpayers weren’t being properly represented during the trial, according to the filing. It only became evident when the selectmen decided not to appeal Moriarty’s ruling, they argued.

In addition to the Green Center, the list of proposed intervenors includes Earle Barnhart, John Carlton-Foss, Rhona Carlton, James Churchill, Hilde Maingay, Pamela Pelletreau, Robert Pelletreau, Christina Rawley, Allison White, George Woodwell, Katharine Woodwell and Ron Zweig.

If the motion is granted, Rosenblum wrote, it could delay the settlement of several other wind turbine court cases Falmouth officials are trying to address.

Boerger said such reasons don’t meet the standard for a decision in the case. The aim of the motion “is to seek changes in the Court’s order that could save the town millions of dollars,” he wrote.

The Green Center has calculated the town’s costs at about $10.5 million.

That amount includes $4.62 million left in debt on the construction of Wind 1, $2.9 million for the loan on Wind 2, $1.4 million to $1.8 million for electricity to operate the wastewater treatment plant over the next 12 years, and $1.65 million owed to the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center over the next 15 years in place of renewable energy credits.


Nov 08

Installation Begins in Cape Cod Canal for Tidal Turbine Test Site


Installation Begins in Cape Cod Canal for Tidal Turbine Test Site

November 8, 2017

BUZZARDS BAY – A nonprofit dedicated to helping develop marine renewable energy technology is working this week to install a test site for small turbines in the Cape Cod Canal.

The Marine Renewable Energy Collaborative is installing pilings and a platform near the Buzzards Bay railroad bridge which will allow companies to test smaller energy generating turbines in tidal flows around 5 knots.

Collaborative Executive Director John Miller said the test site will help developers save money by eliminating the permitting process.

“In this industry the cost of doing a test site involves an awful lot of permitting and doing something in the ocean is difficult,” Miller said. “Our idea is to develop pre-permitted test sites that allow developers to come in and be able to test in a very cost effective manner.”

The test site will be able to test turbines up to 3 meters, or 10 feet, in diameter.

“To do that in this kind of water you have to have a very strong structure,” Miller said.

Piles are being driven about 40 feet into the seabed near the railroad bridge on the mainland side of the canal and extend above the water line. A platform will then be able to raise and lower a turbine for testing into and out of the water.

The tidal flows in the canal are about 5 knots, which is quick but not as fast as in areas where permanent tidal turbines are being installed.

Much larger tidal turbines are currently generating energy in Northern Scotland and the Bay of Fundy in Canada, where tidal flows are up to 10 or 12 knots.

“Those turbines are being put on the bottom to be able to survive in that kind of environment they have to be very large and very robust,” Miller said. “We are talking 100 tons of steel and something that is 30 meters in diameter.”

The canal test site will allow engineers to test turbines that are at least half scale to those being installed permanently.

Miller said the canal is fairly constrained in size and would not be a location for a permanent tidal turbine installation.

“For testing it is perfect,” he said. “It allows us to test a turbine in fast water fairly close to shore so it can be easily accessible and do testing for prolonged periods of time.”


Nov 03

Google’s Project Sunroof



Nov 03

How Solar Panels Work

Oct 31

Federal trade panel calls for restrictions on imported solar cells — which Trump could soon implement


Federal trade panel calls for restrictions on imported solar cells — which Trump could soon implement


By Chris Mooney
October 31, 2017

An installer from Baker Electric installs a solar panel on the roof of a home in Scripps Ranch, San Diego, Calif.

In a closely watched trade case, the four commissioners of the U.S. International Trade Commission on Tuesday voiced their support for tariffs and other import restrictions to protect domestic solar companies from an influx of cheap solar panels being produced overseas.

However, the proposed remedies were not consistent among the commissioners and did not go as far as the two companies that brought the action before the board had requested — leaving few parties happy with the outcome along with lingering uncertainty over the ultimate endpoint of the process, which will be determined by President Trump.

“The remedy recommended by the ITC is disappointing because it will not heal the damage suffered by this American high-tech manufacturing sector from what has been a tidal wave of imports,” said a statement from Suniva, the now-bankrupt Georgia-based panel manufacturer that brought the original trade case with SolarWorld Americas, based in Oregon.

The case has divided the solar energy industry.

Most of the U.S. solar industry has strongly opposed the two companies’ claims, suggesting that the remedies they seek would be disastrous for the domestic industry. Tariffs or import restrictions, they say, would raise overall panel prices, costing solar jobs, particularly in panel installation.

“The commissioners clearly took a thoughtful approach to their recommendations and it’s worth noting that in no case did a commissioner recommend anything close to what the petitioners asked for,” countered Abigail Ross Hopper, the president and chief executive of the Solar Energy Industries Association, an industry trade group that has consistently opposed the commission’s moves to protect two solar firms. “That being said, proposed tariffs would be intensely harmful to our industry.”

The two companies supporting the protections, however, say that they cannot compete with a flood of cheap solar cells from China and other nations. The largest U.S. largest solar firm, First Solar, actually backed the companies earlier this month, contradicting the larger Solar Energy Industries Association on the issue and increasing dissension within the industry.

In late September, the trade commission unanimously found that cheap solar imports were causing “serious injury to the domestic industry.” The four commissioners took their next step at a hearing on Tuesday, offering opinions on how the government should remedy the damage caused.

Next month, the commissioners will send a report to Trump, who has the choice to reject, accept or even go beyond the panel’s chosen recommendations. Many in the solar industry are worried about what the president will do, given his strong support for one of solar’s key competitors — the coal industry — and his apparent warm feelings toward trade restrictions.

The ITC commissioners recommended a variety of remedies. Meredith Broadbent, a Republican, backed modest import limits, starting at current levels, even as she said she was worried that import restrictions could “adversely affect the hundreds of thousands of U.S. workers employed in installing solar projects, manufacturing other equipment . . . and providing a range of services, including cutting-edge research and development, in support of this market.”

Broadbent recommended a four-year restriction of crystalline silicon photovoltaic panel imports, beginning with a limit of 8.9 gigawatts annually, with the allowed amount rising each year — as well as a sale of import licenses to foreign companies wishing to sell foreign-made panels in the United States. (The United States imported 12.77 gigawatts of panels in 2016, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.)

Two other commissioners, Republican David Johanson and Democrat Irving Williamson, both supported a 30 percent tariff on solar cells after 1 gigawatt had been imported and a 30 percent tariff on imported solar modules. Both duties would last for four years and decline annually, while allowed imports would slowly increase. Democrat Rhonda Schmidtlein, the chairman of the commission, recommended a similar arrangement but after only 0.5 gigawatts had been imported and a 35 percent tariff on solar modules.

Suniva had requested a stronger tariff of 40 cents per watt on solar cells, and a price floor of 78 cents per watt for modules.

Critics of tariffs cited the lack of unanimity in their responses Tuesday.

Today’s three different recommendations demonstrate Suniva’s request was not permissible under law,” said Ed Fenster, chairman of the U.S. solar firm Sunrun, in a statement. “We believe the Administration will go the next step, look past the narrow legal lens of this process and see what is plainly visible: the best move for America’s workers is to reject entirely this bailout of two bankrupt companies.”

The current complaint is about competition from cheaply priced crystalline silicon photovoltaic solar cells. The panels made by First Solar use a different technology, cadmium telluride, and so are not affected by the ITC’s decision.

But another large U.S. solar company, SunPower, could be badly hurt by the final outcome based on the panel’s ruling, according to its chief executive, Tom Werner. SunPower both manufactures and installs solar panels. But its manufacturing plants are in Malaysia and the Philippines and therefore would be subject to tariffs, raising prices for U.S. consumers.

Werner said his firm spends about $100 million annually on research and development in the United States, and would have to cut into that budget if tariffs are imposed.

“What you have is two companies that failed to compete in the marketplace that now are going to get support from companies that succeeded,” he said.

“The future of solar and the way to differentiate solar is the integration of solar in with the grid through storage and software, and fighting for solar cell manufacturing is yesterday’s game,” Werner said.

But SolarWorld had a different reaction Tuesday — hoping that Trump will make the move the company is looking for.

“We are pleased that a bipartisan majority of the Commission has recommended tariffs, tariff-rate quotas and funding for the domestic industry,” said Jurgen Stein, the chief executive and president of SolarWorld Americas, in a statement. “This is a useful first step. The process will now move forward to the President, and we continue to believe that the remedies SolarWorld has recommended are the right ones for this industry at this time.”


Oct 31

A bitter scientific debate just erupted over the future of America’s power grid


A bitter scientific debate just erupted over the future of America’s power grid


By Chris Mooney
June 19, 2017

A man looks at solar panels on a roof at Google headquarters in Mountain View, Calif.


Scientists are engaged in an increasingly bitter and personal feud over how much power the United States can get from renewable sources, with a large group of researchers taking aim at a popular recent paper that claimed the country could move beyond fossil fuels entirely by 2055.

In 2015, Stanford professor Mark Jacobson and his colleagues argued that between 2050 and 2055, the United States could be entirely powered by “clean” energy sources and “no natural gas, biofuels, nuclear power, or stationary batteries are needed.”

That would be a massive shift from the current power makeup, as in 2016, the United States got only 6.5 percent of its electricity from hydropower, 5.6 percent from wind and 0.9 percent from solar. Nonetheless, the paper excited proponents of renewable energy, and has been embraced by Sen. Bernie Sanderscelebrity backers such actor Mark Ruffalo and many environmental groups.

But Jacobson’s idea was always contentious. And now, no fewer than 21 researchers have published a study in the influential Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (which also published Jacobson’s original study in 2015) arguing that the work “used invalid modeling tools, contained modeling errors, and made implausible and inadequately supported assumptions.”

“We thought we had to write a peer reviewed piece to highlight some of the mistakes and have a broader discussion about what we really need to fight climate change,” said lead study author Christopher Clack, who is the founder of the firm Vibrant Clean Energy. “And we felt the only way to do it in a fair and unbiased way was to go through peer review, and have external referees vet it to make sure we’re not saying anything that’s untrue in our piece.”

Clack is backed in the study by a number of noted colleagues including prominent climate research Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution, energy researcher Dan Kammen of the University of California at Berkeley, and former EPA Science Advisory Board chair Granger Morgan.

In a simultaneous letter in the journal, meanwhile, Jacobson and three Stanford colleagues fire back that Clack’s critique is itself “riddled with errors” and “demonstrably false.”

Jacobson also argued that his critics are biased in favor of carbon-based fuels such as oil, gas and coal, as well as nuclear energy.

“They try to falsify this thing by claiming that there are errors. This is what really bothers me with this paper. I don’t have any problem with people trying to quibble with our assumptions.”

The fight between researchers comes as the Trump administration has signaled it does not believe the nation’s electric grid can support a quick and thorough shift toward renewable energy, as Jacobson suggests that it can. As soon as this week, Energy Secretary Rick Perry is expected to release a study of the grid that renewable energy advocates fear will be used to criticize wind and solar and how they affect the grid.

The debate is crucial because, while it’s great to talk about wind and solar in theory, the reality is that the electrons that they generate have to be sent through wires and transmission stations to satisfy needs at particular places and at particular times — or else, we’ll have to come up with a way of storing electricity on a large scale, which remains a mostly unsolved problem right now.

And critics have contended that while you can add some wind and solar to the grid without any problem, if you add too much, it can be destabilizing and the electric grid will always require some “baseload” sources of energy, such as nuclear or coal or gas, which generate power continuously, rather than intermittently depending upon the availability of the sun or the winds.

In a 2015 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Jacobson and his Stanford colleagues Mark Delucci, Mary Cameron and Bethany Frew laid out their clean energy vision. They used a model of the electric grid to show that the Lower 48 United States could be entirely powered by wind energy, solar power and hydroelectric energy, as long as there were various forms of energy storage available as well as “demand response,” in which major users of electricity are paid to curtail their use at key times when the grid is facing high demand.

The study also included a small role for geothermal energy and tidal and wave energy, the latter two of which are both fledgling technologies at this point.

Still, the study found that it could all work and, moreover, would be affordable. “The resulting 2050—2055 US electricity social cost for a full system is much less than for fossil fuels,” they wrote. The research, said Jacobson and his co-authors, should put to rest fears that adding large amounts of wind and solar to the grid would be destabilizing because these variable or “intermittent” sources of electricity would not always line up their production with the times when people need them most.

Particularly notable in the study was what Jacobson and his colleagues didn’t include — nuclear energy, which does not produce any greenhouse gases and runs 24/7 without intermittency issues; carbon capture and storage, which could help reduce the emissions from coal and natural gas plants; and bioenergy, which has also often been held out as critical to greening the electricity and transportation sectors.

But Clack and his colleagues contend that the study fails to prove that such a dramatic energy transition can be accomplished in an affordable way, in light of the constraints that occur when you have solar energy unavailable at night and wind energy also unavailable at certain times. They say it assumes a massive adoption of energy storage technologies that may not be feasible, and the possibility of huge volumes of hydroelectric generation.

The researchers actually suggest that 80 percent of the nation’s electricity could be produced without carbon dioxide in the future if you include nuclear energy and bioenergy combined with carbon capture and storage to sequester the emissions from the burning of biomass. But their conclusion on the Jacobson study is quite blunt.

“The study’s numerous shortcomings and errors render it unreliable as a guide about the likely cost, technical reliability, or feasibility of a 100% wind, solar, and hydroelectric power system,” they write. “It is one thing to explore the potential use of technologies in a clearly caveated hypothetical analysis; it is quite another to claim that a model using these technologies at an unprecedented scale conclusively shows the feasibility and reliability of the modeled energy system implemented by midcentury.”

Jacobson has, in turn, published a response in the journal and shared a line-by-line rebuttal to the study. In addition to his objections to how they have characterized his work, he adds that the authors are more focused on cutting carbon dioxide emissions than other social benefits that he and his co-authors care about. “We’re interested in air pollution, health, energy security, nuclear weapons proliferation, reducing the risk to society of all the dangerous considerations,” he said.

But Jacobson also suggests that he is being unfairly treated, writing, in a rebuttal he shared with The Washington Post, that “Clack’s analysis is riddled with intentional misinformation.” For instance, the critique asserts that Jacobson assumed that hydroelectric dams would have the capacity to generate over 1,000 gigawatts, or billion watts, of electricity, vastly more than exists today. Jacobson counters that that’s because the paper assumes that dams would add turbines, but only for peak usage; their average usage would still be much lower.

“They’re trying to make it as if it’s a model error,” said Jacobson. “And I have to respond to dozens of reporters who think that because they claim that it’s an error, it’s actually an error. It’s just ridiculous.”

Clack counters that it is indeed an error, “plain and simple.” “This notion that you can install 10 times the generating capacity at existing dams is a nonsense, because studies have been done to show that there is only about 12GW of capability for that in the US,” he said by email. There are numerous similarly complex claims and counterclaims at issue in the debate — which is part of the problem, says David Victor, an energy policy researcher at the University of California at San Diego and one co-author of the new critique.

“These are studies that seem to be anchored technically, lots of complexity to them, all of which point to the idea that the problem is solvable with a set of options that are frankly politically very palatable,” he said of Jacobson’s studies. That, says Victor, is why the research has been so influential.

“Our analysis suggests … that none of that work holds up,” Victor said. “So I can totally understand that emotions are high, but we have a duty as scientists to call the facts as we see them.”

Christopher Clack was previously with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Earth System Research Laboratory and the University of Colorado’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences while authoring the paper, but now works with Vibrant Clean Energy. 

Oct 17

An interactive map that shows how the US generates electricity

Click on the image below to access an interactive map that shows how the US generates electricity:

Oct 14

For Electric Car Owners, ‘Range Anxiety’ Gives Way to ‘Charging Time Trauma’







For Electric Car Owners, ‘Range Anxiety’ Gives Way to ‘Charging Time Trauma’


By Eric Taub

October 5, 2017



An oft-cited reason people don’t buy electric cars is “range anxiety” — if batteries struggle to take you as far as gas and charging stations are limited in number, the thinking goes, who would want one?

But there is another obstacle: charging time trauma. Compared with a five-minute pit stop at your local gas station, charging an electric vehicle is a glacially slow experience. Modern electric cars still often need an entire night to recharge at home, and even at a commercial fast charging station, a fill-up can take an hour or more.

“Driving long distances and stopping for one to two hours is not something I would want to do,” said Mark McNabb, the chief executive of Electrify America, a Volkswagen subsidiary that is installing charging stations across the United States as part of the German automaker’s settlement for cheating on diesel emissions tests.

The good news? Charging times will eventually shrink to little more than 10 minutes. The bad news: That won’t be for several years.

Still, there is help is on the way. Manufacturers are installing more charging points across the country, and technological improvements are already allowing for charging times to improve.

Two levels of charging are typically available in residential settings. Level 1 is a standard AC outlet that provides between 1 and 1.5 kilowatts of electricity. It takes a Level 1 charger about 30 hours to fully charge the electric version of the Ford Focus, which has a range of 115 miles. Level 2 uses a professionally installed charger connected to a 240-volt AC outlet — the kind used by some large appliances — and delivers between 7 and 9 kilowatts, lowering the charge time to about 5.5 hours.

Some commercial charging locations offer more advanced technology, employing so-called fast chargers. These offer about 50 kilowatts of DC power, enabling the same Ford Focus to reach 90 miles of range in 30 minutes (battery chemistry causes charging to go more slowly after a battery is 80 percent full). The electric carmaker Tesla has a proprietary “supercharger” for its vehicles that provides 120 kilowatts of power, adding 300 miles of range in 75 minutes.

A new generation of charging points, the first of which are being installed in Europe this year, offer 350 kilowatts of power. Such a jump would slash charging times to 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the vehicle’s range, according to Charlie Yankitis, director of business development for the German manufacturer Bosch’s electric vehicle unit. Elon Musk, Tesla’s founder, has hinted that charging at even faster rates was being studied.

Several companies are making big bets on the technology.

Electrify America, the Volkswagen subsidiary, is planning on installing such high-capacity chargers along highway corridors throughout the United States. It is investing $2 billion in electric vehicle charging infrastructure and education nationwide, $800 million of which is earmarked for California alone.

By the end of 2020, Electrify America plans to have built 350 Level 2 charging sites in urban areas in California, like workplaces and apartment buildings. It will also build an unspecified number of fast chargers along roadways, each of which will have several charge units. A further 540 are to be built elsewhere in the country in that time.

ChargePoint, the largest installer of vehicle charging stations in the United States, plans to install 400-kilowatt sites in the coming months. But its chief executive, Pasquale Romano, did not specify how many.

Similar pushes are being made elsewhere. In Europe, the German automotive giants BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen have joined with Ford in a joint venture to install 350-kilowatt chargers across the Continent. They will start installing them this year, initially planning to get 400 fast-charging sites up and running, with “thousands” in place by 2020.

“We’re looking for similar solutions across the globe,” said Mike Tinskey, Ford’s global director of electrification and infrastructure.

There are, however, hurdles that need to be overcome.

For one, standards differ across manufacturers and regions. Today’s commercial chargers use three different kinds of plugs that are not entirely compatible. In practice, a Chevrolet, Nissan or Volkswagen cannot be charged at a Tesla charger. A Tesla, however, can use an adapter plug to charge at standard commercial stations, and Electrify America says its charging stations will be compatible with a variety of plugs.

Another issue: No vehicle on the road today is able to use the 350-kilowatt fast-charging stations. It is not a simple upgrade: High-speed charging requires thicker cables that won’t get too hot.

No automakers have indicated when they will sell cars equipped to accept such fast charges. Porsche’s Mission E electric vehicle is expected to be available by 2020, and will be able to charge to a 250-mile range in 15 minutes, according to the carmaker. Electrify America and ChargePoint say they expect vehicles capable of accepting 350-killowatt chargers to be available by 2019.

Utilities will also have to upgrade their infrastructure, a change for which California is already preparing.

Under the state’s zero emission regulations, every manufacturer must sell a certain number of emission-free vehicles, calculated as a proportion of overall sales. Consequently, California has become the hub for the mass installation of fast charging points. One of the state’s utility companies, Southern California Edison, estimates that 25 percent of its network must be upgraded to support new chargers.

“We hope we’ll be ready for fast charging when Electrify America is ready to install it,” said Caroline Choi, the utility’s senior vice president of regulatory affairs.

For now, the number of charging stations remains relatively low. According to the Department of Energy, there are just over 16,000 public electric vehicle charging points in the United States, offering about 44,000 individual outlets of varying charging speeds. By comparison, there are 120,000 gas stations nationwide, many of which have 10 or more pumps.

So customers will have to stick to charging an electric vehicle whenever it’s not being used, much as they already do with smartphones and tablets.

According to ChargePoint, 80 percent of vehicle charging is currently done at home, and industry executives argue that it’s wrong to think about charging electric cars in the way they envision filling up a gasoline or diesel vehicle.

“Electric vehicles are more like horses than gasoline cars,” said Mr. Romano of ChargePoint. They are like a horse that eats whenever you’re not riding it: “you refuel them when you’re doing something else.”

Oct 13

Orleans Makes Ice from Sun

Oct 12



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