Massive Solar Power Project for California Desert Scrapped

The proposed Palen Solar Electric Generating System | Photo: Palen Solar Holdings

The consortium of solar companies seeking to build a 500-megawatt solar power tower project in Riverside County has formally withdrawn the project's application from consideration by the California Energy Commission.

The Palen Solar Electric Generating System had just received tentative approval from the Commission this month to build one of two planned 750-foot solar power towers in the eastern Chuckwalla Valley.

But on Friday afternoon, project owner Palen Solar Holdings formally withdrew its petition on behalf of the project, which likely means the project is dead -- at least for the foreseeable future.

No! Wrong Way! U.S. Carbon Emissions Rising Again

Well here's some news to ruin your weekend: the federal government's chief energy analysts say that despite a massive national investment in renewable energy, U.S. greenhouse gas emissions are climbing again.

According to the latest Monthly Energy Review put out by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the U.S. dumped significantly more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere in the first half of 2014 than it did in the same period over the previous two years. That's a startling reversal of a decline in emissions from 2010-2012, and an indication that we really need to step up our game on the quickest, most cost-effective ways of reducing our emissions: distributed solar and energy efficiency.

"The growth in U.S. CO2 emissions is clear wake-up call that much more needs to be done to accelerate the growth of renewable energy sources, as well as improved energy efficiency, if the nation is to successfully address climate change," said Ken Bossong, executive director of the SUN DAY Campaign, which sent out a press release on the reported increase.

Nation's Largest Battery Storage Project Charges Forward in Kern County

Lithium-ion batteries | Photo: Argonne National Laboratory/Flickr/Creative Commons License

The largest battery-based grid power storage system in North America just went online in Kern County.

With a storage capacity of 32 megawatt-hours, enough to power a typical American home for about 15 months, Southern California Edison's Tehachapi Energy Storage Project is intended to allow grid operators to store surplus power from nearby fields of wind turbines in the Tehachapi Wind Resource Area.

The storage project is made up of more than 600,000 lithium ion battery cells similar to those used in electric cars, housed at Edison's Monolith Substation east of Tehachapi.

Feds Broke Law Approving Wind Project Near Eagle Nests, Lawsuit Claims

Golden eagle rears chick in nest near the Tule Wind site, April 2011 | Photo courtesy American Bird Conservancy, obtained via FOIA request

A conservation group and two area residents have sued the federal government over its approval of a wind project in eastern San Diego County they say poses an unlawful risk to golden eagles.

The Santa Ysabel-based group Protect Our Communities, along with East County residents Dave Hogan and Nica Knite, filed suit Wednesday against the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Department of the Interior. The plaintiffs charge that the agencies' approval of a second phase of the Tule Wind Project violates federal environmental laws and threatens San Diego County's remaining golden eagles.

The project's second phase, on the Ewiiaapaayp Kumeyaay Indian Reservation near Alpine, would add up to 20 new large turbines to the larger Tule Wind project, most of which is on BLM lands in the McCain Valley area. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has warned project owner Iberdrola Renewables that Tule Wind as a whole poses too high a risk to local golden eagles for the agency to grant the project's second phase a permit to allow it to kill eagles.

Desert Energy Plan Would Devote 2 Million Acres To Renewables

The Draft DRECP is out, after years of delay | Photo: DRECP

A long-awaited master planning document in the works since 2008 that will guide renewable energy development in the California desert is out in draft form today, and residents of the West Mojave and some other parts of the desert will not be happy.

The draft Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan, or DRECP, which attempts to craft a region-wide development framework for 22 million acres of California desert in six counties, would designate more than two million acres as renewable energy Development Focus Areas (DFAs), mainly clustered in the western Mojave, the Barstow-Victorville area, eastern Imperial County, and the I-10 corridor in Riverside County.

DFAs, where permitting for renewable energy development would be fast-tracked, would also be created near Tecopa, Lucerne Valley, and Ridgecrest, as well as a geothermal-oriented DFA in the southern Owens Valley near Olancha. The goal is to promote the construction of up to 20,000 megawatts of new wind, solar, and geothermal power generating capacity in the DRECP plan area by 2040.

What Does 'Carbon-Neutral' Really Mean?

It's not so simple to figure out your company's carbon footprint | Photo: World Bank Photo Collection/Flickr/Creative Commons License

A segment on KCET's award-winning TV show "SoCal Connected" has been produced in tandem with this story. Watch it here now.

Protesters clogged the streets of New York City on Sunday in the largest march ever focused on the threat of climate change. The People's Climate March in Manhattan, with at least 100,000 participants, is just the latest piece of evidence that more and more people are worried about our warming world. As our concern over climate change mounts, environment-savvy entrepreneurs and others are looking for ways to shift the way we run our society to have less of an impact on the climate.

As businesses start looking for ways not to affect the planet's natural carbon cycles, the phrases "carbon-neutral" and "carbon-negative" have increasingly become industry buzzwords. They're shorthand used to describe that goal of putting fewer greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, or none at all. But what do they really mean?

At first glance, they seem simple. "Carbon-neutral" means that whatever you're doing, making products or shipping them or whatever your business does -- we'll call it a "widget" for simplicity's sake -- you're not adding any greenhouse gases to the air. A carbon-negative widget actually causes greenhouse gases to be removed from the atmosphere. Both are great goals, but it turns out they're not so simple to describe.

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