renewable energy | KUNR

renewable energy

The wind and solar industries made historic gains last year. Both reached new highs in energy production and capacity in 2020.


An image of a worker installing solar panels.
Courtesy Nevada Governor's Office of Energy

Here are your local news headlines for the morning of Wednesday, Mar. 17, 2021.

A landscape with mountain peaks made of volcanic rock and dirt in the foreground. Snowcapped mountains line the background.
Noah Glick

The Sony Handycam, of all things, foretold what may soon be a massive mine on public lands in Nevada.

In the early 1990s, the camcorder became the first product to use lithium-ion batteries commercially. Since then, the technology has been used to power our laptops, smartphones, and now electric vehicles and homes.

Three men installing solar panels.
Unsplash

It's been a tough year for gas and oil prices, but solar power has seen steady growth during this pandemic year. 

President-elect Joe Biden wants to move the U.S. away from fossil fuel development, but he will face some challenges.

  

Solar panels in Nevada desert
andreiorlov / Adobe Stock

The U.S. is now officially out of the Paris climate accord

Climate policy is mixed around the Mountain West, but many states are seeing action and a transition to renewable energy regardless of federal leadership. 

Two men wearing hard hats are lifting a rectangular panel onto a roof outside.
Tessa Hartman / Simple Power Solar

After more than a decade of growth, Nevada’s fast-growing renewable energy sector faces storm clouds. Globally, the COVID-19 pandemic has cost the sector thousands of jobs, is delaying projects large and small, and in many areas is killing sales. But Nevada enjoys the sunniest skies in the nation, the momentum of a decade-long boom in projects and a state government pushing for more. Officials said Nevada will weather the current turbulence and meet its new standard to source half its electricity from renewables by 2030. And already, some local solar panel installers report a rebound in activity.

A woman standing behind a podium that reads NV Energy. Behind her is a green EV charging station with two cords and reads Terrible's.
Courtesy NV Energy

While sales of electric vehicles globally are expected to decline this year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the installation of charging stations in Nevada is expected to continue growing, pushed by $15 million in utility incentives and support from the state.

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.

A field of wind turbines.
Bureau of Land Management

The Bureau of Land Management is charging back-due rent on renewable energy projects on public lands, as the Department of Interior simultaneously works to give oil and gas operators financial relief.

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 large western utility with customers in 10 western states including Wyoming is preparing to make its largest request for new renewable energy ever. It's a step towards executing its October 2019 Integrated Resource Plan.

An image of a man wiping down a large array of solar panels.
U.S. Department of Energy

Solar jobs are up across the U.S., after two consecutive years of declines. But that growth is mixed in our region.

According to the latest report from the nonprofit solar energy advocate, The Solar Foundation, more than 5,600 solar jobs were added last year.

An image showing a view of a lithium mine operation from space.
NASA

The nation’s largest known lithium deposit is here in the Mountain West. As demand for electric vehicles grows — and with it demand for lithium, used to make EV batteries — one company hopes to harvest the mineral from that deposit in Northern Nevada.

Rural economies could get a massive boost under policies meant to decrease carbon emissions, according to an analysis by the Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank.

 


Recent data shows that the U.S. had more minable oil and natural gas reserves than ever before.

U.S. Department of Energy

When it comes to greenhouse gases, much of the attention is being paid to energy production. But since 2017, the transportation sector has actually been the biggest emitter nationwide.

A new study shows that global wind speeds have increased in the last decade, and that may allow wind turbines in the Mountain West to generate more clean energy.

Climate Central

As an increasing number of states focus on renewable energy, batteries are becoming more of a necessity. And according to a new report, battery costs are dropping—but not enough to compete with fossil fuels.

The report comes from Climate Central, a nonprofit organization that studies the impacts of climate change. In it, the authors state that batteries and renewable energy sources are becoming cheaper by the year.

State of Colorado

As the Trump administration begins the process of withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement, three states in the Mountain West pledge to follow the tenets of the accord anyway.

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