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Pioneering approaches for community investment in renewable energy
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The Complete 11 Page Guide to Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency Federal Tax Credits


Tuesday, April 13th, 2010 -

The Folks at GREENandSAVE have compiled an 11 page guide to renewable energy/energy efficiency Federal tax credits…money that can be used to pay for your Green dreams. Click the below link to thumb through this very fine resource:

The Complete 11 Page Guide to Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency Federal Tax Credits


AIRE Covered in the Latest Issue of the Appalachian Voice!


Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009 -

Read it online now!

Check out the coverage of AIRE in the latest issue of the Appalachian Voice, pages 11 and 14. You can find it “on the newsstand” or online at:

http://appvoices.org/pdfs/voice_2009_06_decjan.pdf (PDf)

Will green energy and electric cars drive a new global climate change plan?


Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009 -

This from NOW on PBS…Home to a worldwide summit on climate change in early December, Denmark is setting a global example in creating clean power, storing it, and using it responsibly. Their reliance on wind power to produce electricity without contributing to global warming is well known, but now they’re looking to drive the point home with electric cars.

See the segment on NOW’s website

Major Inaccuracies Found in the Nature Conservancy’s “Energy Sprawl” Report


Monday, November 2nd, 2009 -

This blog posted was cross posted from Appalachian Voices Front Porch Blog. Research and reporting by Appalachian Voices’ Dr. Matthew Wasson.

As Congress was returning from the August recess, there wasn’t much news about the climate bill. The only energy-related news breaking through the coverage of the rancorous health care debates and town-hall tea parties was a study on “energy sprawl” published by five staff members of the Nature Conservancy.

“Renewable Energy Needs Land, Lots Of Land” was the headline of an August 28th story on NPR about the study.

“Renewable technologies increase energy sprawl,” was the headline summary on the journal Nature’s website.

Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, in an Op/Ed published in the Wall Street Journal, summed up the message that was heard by legislators and the public from the news coverage of the study:

“we’re about to destroy the environment in the name of saving it.”

The interesting thing about the news coverage is that none of it addressed the actual analysis. The study didn’t actually measure the impacts of different energy technologies, but rather compiled estimates from a smattering of reports, fact sheets and brochures from government and industry sources in order to arrive at an acre-per-unit of energy figure for each energy technology. Those figures were then applied to the Energy Information Administration’s modeling of four climate policy scenarios under consideration by Congress.

So the coverage was generated not by the study’s results, but entirely by the assumptions that went into it about the relative impacts of renewable versus conventional energy technologies. Looking at the counter-intuitive findings (wind is 8 times as destructive as coal), it’s no wonder that the media took such an interest.

To put those assumptions in perspective, the habitat impact of the Mount Storm Wind Farm in the first image is assumed to be 25% greater than the impact of the 12,000 acre Hobet mountaintop removal mine in the second image (images are taken from the same altitude and perspective; the bright connect-the-dots feature in the windfarm image is the actual area disturbed):

MtStorm2  Mount Mine Site from 9 miles

“Garbage in, garbage out” is a concept most people are familiar with, but the problems with the “energy sprawl” study go farther than that.

When I taught a course in ecological modeling, we used a hypothetical study on acts of violence in industrialized countries to examine how you could generate any result you desire simply by choosing how to define an “act of violence.” For instance, if you wanted to show that the French are the most violent industrialized society, you might define rude treatment by waiters as an act of violence. The study does something very similar, but worse – it fails to define a consistent measure of land-use impact across the various energy technologies it purports to compare. It’s as though we defined “acts of violence” to include rude treatment only by French waiters, but not by German, English or American waiters.

While I won’t get into detail of the math and science (a full analysis and response is in preparation), here are just a few of the jaw-dropping errors and assumptions that went into the study:

  • A 2 megawatt wind turbine is assumed to disturb between 100 and 120 acres of wildlife habitat (smell test: does it really make sense that one of those wind turbines you always see on television is disturbing more than 100 football fields worth of land?). These estimates were not from published studies, but from portions of brochures discussing the area required for ideal placement of a windfarm. Instead of using additional estimates from those same brochures that only 3-5% of that area is directly impacted, the study used vaguely-worded, unreferenced and unsupportable biological justifications to include the other 95-97% in their analysis.
  • The acreage impacts of coal mining, from Wyoming to Alabama, were extrapolated from one mine in Illinois, and apparently one other mine, though no location, details or references were provided. In the case of Appalachian mining, a casual examination of available data reveals that many – probably most – Appalachian mines exhibit a “landuse intensity” 5 to 10 times higher than either estimate used in the study.
  • The impacts of blowing up a mountain and dumping resulting toxic-laden waste into nearby valleys and streams is treated as a comparable disturbance to, say, being located several hundred yards away from a wind turbine. Worse, fragmentation of habitat (the category that increased wind’s alleged impacts by 95-97%), was only considered for renewable technologies but not for nuclear and coal, despite a wealth of published studies showing fragmentation effects as much as five times greater than the footprint of a strip mine.

It’s obvious that the authors of this study don’t spend a lot of time thinking about coal mining (the fact that they refer to underground or deep mines as “pit” mines is revealing). That could partly explain the distorted picture the study gives of the impacts of coal mining, but the assumptions are so consistently weighted against renewable energy that it gets hard to ignore. If the pattern of assumptions so consistently tilted against renewables and in favor of coal and nuclear doesn’t raise a red flag, consider the language used in the study. The EIA’s “No International Offsets/Limited Alternatives” scenario, which would emphasize rapid expansion of renewable energy technologies (and which purportedly creates the most “energy sprawl”), was renamed the “Few Options” scenario by the authors. A real gem of a PR strategy from the group that came up with “energy sprawl.”

As for the policy options that the study’s results (and assumptions) favor, the “Core” scenario from the EIA’s analysis of the Warner-Lieberman climate bill was renamed the “CCS” scenario – shorthand for carbon capture and storage. This could also represent a real tipping of the hand as to the policy priorities at the Nature Conservancy. That, in turn, would go a long way toward explaining the blind spot the Nature Conservancy possesses regarding the wholesale destruction of the most biologically diverse forests and streams on the continent through mountaintop removal coal mining. The fact that plants installing CCS will need to consume at least 15-30% more coal to produce the same amount of electricity (if and when CCS becomes available), would cause a little cognitive dissonance in anyone concerned about the environment but supportive of widespread CCS deployment.

What the study didn’t look at

From the perspective of communities impacted by coal mining, a study on energy impacts that looked no further than the land area affected by mining was never going to carry much weight anyway. EPA biologist Gregory Pond, who published a study in 2008 showing the loss of entire orders of insects downstream from mountaintop removal mines, told the news media when the study was released:

“While habitat degradation from mountaintop mining is what one sees on the surface, we found that chemical effects are quite pronounced and limit much of the expected biodiversity from what were once naturally rich, diverse Appalachian stream systems.”

The most important factors in the “what the study doesn’t look at” category, however, are the impacts of energy on people and communities. The thousands of people in Appalachia without access to clean and safe drinking water do not show up in the “energy sprawl” study’s land impact estimates. The photo on the right of a child in Prenter, West Virginia, is the lead photo of a remarkable piece of reporting from the New York Times that provides a lot of insight into the awful tragedies faced daily by families in Appalachia who are forced to drink and bathe in water polluted with coal waste.

The authors of the “energy sprawl” study stated explicitly that aquatic and health issues are not what the study was about, and it wouldn’t be fair to blame them for any failure to address those problems. It’s the inevitable distortions of the study that do the most violence to those fighting for safe homes and clean drinking water in coal and uranium-bearing regions. The lead author addressed some of those distortions directly, shortly after Senator Alexander’s “We’re destroying the environment in the name of saving it” op-ed. Here are a few excerpts from his post on the Nature Conservancy’s blog:

First, climate change is the big threat to America’s wildlife (and to our communities). Severe climate change has the potential to imperil many more species than energy sprawl.

Moreover, we show in our paper that most of the energy sprawl from now to 2030 will happen regardless of whether or not there is a comprehensive climate bill. By far the largest amount of energy sprawl will come from biofuel production, driven by the renewable fuel standard and other laws already in place.

So I say to everyone writing or blogging about energy sprawl: If you are concerned about energy sprawl, then fight for energy efficiency!

The Nature Conservancy’s tireless efforts to support energy efficiency, build awareness of climate change, and bring climate policy to the table deserve both thanks and respect. But the concept of “energy sprawl,” now that it has been associated with such a distorted picture of the impacts of wind, solar, coal and nuclear technologies, adds nothing but confusion and false impressions to the debate over climate.

The study also does a lot of harm to those working to reduce the impacts of mining and to promote green jobs in their communities. “Nature Conservancy says wind and solar are more harmful than coal” is a talking point that will be repeated in mine permit hearings, utilities commission proceedings, letters to the editor and at coal rallies across the country for years into the future.

There is no way to repair the concept of “energy sprawl” at this point. Environmental and climate advocates would do well to strike that buzzword from their lexicons and literature entirely.

Burn this blog post after reading.

cross-posted with Huffington Post and iLoveMountains.org

Wind Power Educational Forum Scheduled


Friday, October 23rd, 2009 -

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Contact: Jessica Hocz
Wind Power Educational Forum Scheduled
Mountain Valleys RC&D
10-22-2009 Alternative Energy Manager
828-649-3313, ext.5

Mountain Valleys Resource Conservation & Development, Blue Ridge Resource Conservation & Development, Toe River Valley Watch and the UNCA Environmental Center are sponsoring ‘Wind Power Educational Forums’ on November 11th in Asheville at UNCA’s Owen Hall and on November 12th in Spruce Pine at Mayland Tech.

The forums will consist of speakers from Appalachian State University, the North Carolina Sustainability Association, North Carolina State Legislators, representatives of commercial wind developers and various environmental groups. Mountain Valleys Resource Conservation & Development will also present their Alternative Energy for Farms project.

The economic opportunity and environmental implications of developing wind energy in Western North Carolina will be discussed, for both for small and large-scale projects. North Carolina Senate Bill 1068, which has passed in Senate and will go to the House next May, will be discussed. If Senate Bill 1068 is passed the opportunity for clean, renewable, large-scale wind energy in Western North Carolina will be eliminated. There will also be discussion on local counties’ efforts to adopt local ordinances related to responsible wind development.

The meetings will begin to at 6 pm each night and are expected to last until about 7:30pm. Light refreshments will be served at both meetings. For more information please contact Mountain Valleys Resource Conservation & Development at 828-649-3313, ext 5.

Mountain Valleys Resource Conservation & Development is an organization that seeks to encourage wise use of our natural and human resources as well as economic development that is balanced with the natural environment. Members work toward common objectives to improve the overall quality of life for residents and the overall quality of our natural resources.

Southern Energy & Environment Expo


Thursday, August 20th, 2009 -

Don’t forget that the 9th annual Southern Energy & Environment Expo (SEE Expo) in Asheville this weekend. Many great presentations and exhibitors. Runs August 21-23.

Malawian Teen Builds Wind Turbine – from Scatch!


Monday, August 10th, 2009 -

With all the discussion about wind energy in North Carolina these days, I just wanted to share a video that I think typifies the extraordinary possibility offered by the partnership of human creativity and wind energy – so with no further adieu I will submit for your viewing pleasure the story of a Malawian teen, who with no formal instruction or sophisticated workshop, constructed a wind turbine to provide power to his family and village. Please enjoy :)



NC Senate Votes to ban wind in WNC


Thursday, August 6th, 2009 -

RALEIGH – The N.C. Senate voted today to ban the commercial generation of wind energy in mountain counties. Supporters of the ban argued that the construction of large wind turbines on mountain ridges would ruin the natural beauty of the mountains. Environmentalists say that the state should be encouraging wind power, not limiting it. Read the news here in the Winston-Salem Journal.

Canary Coalition’s Response


Sunday, July 26th, 2009 -

Winds of Change

Dear Editor,

Although I disagree with Don Hendershot by about 180 degrees on wind development in the mountains, I’m glad he’s started the conversation again.

As Don mentioned, NC State Senators Nesbitt, Queen and Snow attempted to turn the wind energy siting bill, SB1068, into a ban on wind development in western North Carolina. What a terrible mistake and a waste it would have been had they succeeded.

Originally SB1068 was a well thought-out plan to provide for responsible, thoughtful guidelines in harnessing a clean, safe, renewable resource that is thankfully abundant in the western part of North Carolina. The proposed guidelines in the original bill would prohibit wind projects in major popular viewsheds, in environmentally sensitive areas and in areas of historical significance. Further, the guidelines would give discretion to local governments to decide which remaining potential wind sites would be open or closed to development. Even with these “overlays” of prohibited areas, comprehensive scientific studies at Appalachian State University estimate there would still be well over 1000 megawatts of readily available wind resources to develop in western North Carolina. This translates into thousands of green jobs, significant new tax revenue streams for local, rural communities, new sources of income for struggling small farms and rural land owners.

Developing these wind resources also means we could help save mountain ridgetops, trees, sensitive species of plants and animals, trout, birds and people from the effects of acid rain, high ozone levels, mercury toxicity, arsenic, dioxins, hydrogen chloride, hydrogen fluoride, lead, cadmium, barium and other heavy metals being spewed into the air by Duke Energy’s new Cliffside coal-burning power plant in Rutherford County, NC.

Cliffside, if it ever gets completed, will be an 800 megawatt coal-burning power plant. Duke Energy is currently asking for an 18% rate hike to complete Cliffside. But, by combining measures designed to reduce energy consumption with an aggressive program to develop wind in the west (which is the least expensive option of producing energy), we can avoid completing Cliffside and even begin phasing out some of the other old coal plants in North Carolina. This plan would really benefit the ridgetops of western North Carolina, as well as the health and economy of the residents who live here.

Instead, we burn coal derived from devastating mountain top removal mining in West Virginia, Kentucky and East Tennessee, so we can supposedly “save” the mountains of western North Carolina from wind energy development.

How ironic that, in 2007, Senators Nesbitt, Queen and Snow all voted to enable rate-payer funding of new coal-burning power plants in North Carolina, including Cliffside, and now, self-righteously proclaim their intent to “save” the mountains by banning wind turbines.

These three anti-wind legislative crusaders were defeated in their attempt to ban wind by a huge groundswell of public outrage that materialized through an overnight grassroots organizing effort in early July of this year. It was heartening to see democracy in action during this short period. Unlike the impression Don tried to convey about merely a “push button” revolution through sites like aire-nc.org, this was an amazing collaborative effort by many organizations and individuals statewide. The Canary Coalition was an integral part of this campaign and I can testify to the fact that thousands of phone calls, emails, written letters and visits to legislators materialized because wind energy development is a popular idea. Surveys consistently show that most people like the way windmills look, what they do for the environment and what they promise for the economy.

Avram Friedman

Take Action! NC Conservation Network Calls for Action on Wind in NC


Thursday, July 23rd, 2009 -

From Jessilyn Kemp of the North Carolina Conservation Network…

Earlier this week we sent you an email about protecting the responsible development of wind energy in North Carolina. We have a quick update and another chance for you to take quick action: http://ncconservationnetwork1.org/campaign/windmtns

Senate Bill 1068 is essentially a good bill that the environmental community supports because it would create a needed permitting process for wind projects. But some key state Senators, including yours, are at the heart of an ongoing effort to amend S1068 to ban wind power in the mountains of North Carolina.

If you haven’t had a chance to make a phone call yet, please send a quick email to your Senator asking him/her to oppose a ban on wind power in Western NC: http://ncconservationnetwork1.org/campaign/windmtns

Wind power on just five percent of our ridges could create, conservatively, 800 megawatts of capacity -enough to power over 400,000 homes. We can develop wind in Western North Carolina without damaging the region’s environment – and we must to transition NC away from dirty energy sources that threaten our health and our environment.

We need your help to tell our state decision makers that we should NOT ban responsible wind energy projects in North Carolina: http://ncconservationnetwork1.org/campaign/windmtns

Thank you,

Jessilyn Kemp
NC Conservation Network

P.S. If this bill is passed with a ban on mountain wind energy, NC risks:

  • Sending millions of energy dollars, and hundreds of jobs out of state
  • Keeping millions of dollars of local economic development dollars out of the mountains
  • Undermining local governments who have adopted permitting laws for commercial wind
  • Stripping utilities from one of the most cost-effective options for meeting the NC Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard.

If you’d like, you can still call your Senator and ask that they don’t close the door on wind energy in North Carolina’s mountains and to support responsibly sited wind energy in the mountains of North Carolina! http://tools.advomatic.com/19/windmtns


AIRE - pioneering approaches for community investment in renewable energy
164 South Depot St. • Boone, North Carolina 28607 • info@aire-nc.org • phone: 828.268.5022 • fax: 828.265.5650
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