Benjamin Payne

Benjamin Payne is a contributing reporter and floating host at KUNR. He is currently pursuing his master's degree at the University of Nevada, Reno's Reynolds School of Journalism, where he also works as a teaching assistant.

Before moving to Reno, Benjamin worked as the local Morning Edition host at NPR member station WVIK in his hometown of Rock Island, Illinois — also home to the first NFL game, as he reported for NPR.

He started his career as a news intern at NPR member station WBEZ in Chicago, shortly after graduating with a bachelor's degree in journalism from Augustana College in Rock Island.

Benjamin roots for the Chicago Cubs — and did so even before they finally ended their World Series drought in 2016.

Fourteen large wind turbines spin at the Spring Valley Wind facility near Ely, Nevada.
Jeff Moser / Creative Commons

Nevada is a big player in renewable energy. But while it ranks among the top five states for both solar and geothermal energy production, it lags well behind in wind energy production, where it falls 33rd. This fact surprised KUNR's Benjamin Payne, who last year moved to Reno from his native Illinois. Whereas that state boasts more than 50 wind farms, Nevada has only one. He decided to look into this gap, and figure out why wind makes up such a small sliver of Nevada’s energy mix.

Dozens of large, yellow lithium-ion batteries are bolted together. They are being charged by solar power.
Yo-Co-Man / Creative Commons

Despite all the favorable conditions and high demand for solar power in Nevada, there are challenges.

There's the COVID-19 pandemic, which is likely to stall or even cancel some solar projects that are under development, according to federal energy projections. There's a more fundamental problem as well, though: the sun doesn't always shine. That's why more battery storage is needed to capture and store solar when the sun is up, so utilities have enough to deliver when the sun is down.

But one Nevada solar plant has found another solution. KUNR's Benjamin Payne has the story.

A son and his parents wearing face masks while embracing
Courtesy of Aaron Foster

It’s hard enough to keep a fledgling new restaurant up and running in normal times. Imagine running one during a pandemic. That’s the reality for one Reno resident, whose business opened just as the coronavirus began spreading across the country. This entrepreneur is trying to make the best of bad times, with the help of some unexpected business partners.

Empty board room of the Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE) Board of Regents
NSHE

Staff and students at Nevada's seven public colleges and universities would shoulder some of the costs of a reduced budget for the upcoming fiscal year that begins in July, under two of the three proposals approved Friday by the Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE) Board of Regents.

Students sitting in chairs wearing graduation garb.
Nevada Today / University of Nevada, Reno

Students graduating from the University of Nevada Reno this semester will be able to participate in commencement; it just won't happen this spring. UNR President Marc Johnson announced Friday that graduates will have two options on when they get to walk.

 

This December or spring of next year — UNR students graduating this spring can choose either one.

An illustration of an ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses.
Alissa Eckert, MS; Dan Higgins, MAMS / Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Exterior of the Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center at the University of Nevada, Reno.
Alexa Ard

Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE) Board of Regents Chair Jason Geddes said the board will try to complete its searches for the next presidents of the University of Nevada, Reno and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas before the spring semester ends in mid-May.

Exterior of the Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center at the University of Nevada, Reno.
Alexa Ard

The University of Nevada, Reno said it will issue partial refunds to all students who are being asked to move out of the residence halls. Friday's announcement comes after the university ordered all students to stay home, amid concerns over the novel coronavirus.

A tortoise poses in front of the camera
Benjamin Payne

Kym McDonough is in a race against the clock—the biological clock, that is, of the desert tortoise.

With fall well under way, Nevada's state reptile population is inching closer to brumation, which is the cold-blooded version of hibernation, in which tortoises hunker down in burrows to get through the cold months, occasionally rousing from their slumber on warmer winter days.