The largest coal-fired power plant in New England, the last remaining coal plant in Massachusetts, will close for good as of June 1, owner Dynegy announced Monday.
BOSTON BUSINESS JOURNAL — The decision to close the 1,500-megawatt plant was made by former owner Energy Capital Partners in January 2014.
The private equity firm had failed to secure an agreement with ISO New England, the operator of the six-state power grid, the Providence Journal reported at the time.
The closure decision came months after ECP agreed to pay the Virginia-based Dominion $650 million for Brayton Point and two power plants in Illinois.
Located in Somerset on Mount Hope Bay, Brayton Point's concrete cooling towers form a distinctive landscape element along the Southeastern Massachusetts shoreline near Fall River. The plant's four generators, when firing at full capacity, can power 1.5 million homes.
Dominion owned the 1960s-vintage plant from 2005 to 2013, and invested more than $1 billion in pollution control technology before market and regulatory forces undermined the facility's profitable operation. The plant started operating less and less often.
Environmental and public health advocates, including the Conservation Law Foundation, had long called for the plant's closure, once identified as a leading source of air pollution in New England.
Coal-fired plants are shutting down around the country, faced with the high cost of running aging facilities, air pollution disincentives, state policies favoring renewables, and competition from natural gas generators.
Coal currently generates a little more than 2 percent of the region's power mix, according to ISO New England, which projects major coal, oil, and nuclear power plant retirements in the coming years.
Dynegy in February acquired a portfolio of U.S. power generators owned by ENGIE, the French energy firm, in a $3.3 billion deal.
The company now runs 50 power plants totaling 31,000 megawatts, enough to power 25 million homes, including four natural gas plants in Massachusetts.
Donald Trump has spoken: the U.S. will exit the landmark 2015 Paris climate accord. And clean-energy investors yawned.
BLOOMBERG — Solar stocks barely budged after the announcement Thursday. The Bloomberg Intelligence Global Large Solar Energy Valuation index of 16 companies gained 0.8 percent at the close in New York.
JinkoSolar Holding Co., the world’s biggest panel producer, climbed 2.7 percent, and that was one of the bigger swings.
Canadian Solar Inc., the top North American supplier, gained 0.8 percent, and U.S. rival SunPower Corp. rose 1.5 percent. Seoul-based Hanwha Q Cells Co. posted one of the larger losses, and that was just 2.1 percent.
The muted response is a sign that investors expect demand for clean energy will continue to grow, in the U.S and around the world.
“Trying to make a short trade on a long-term trend is risky,” SunPower Chief Executive Officer Tom Werner said in an interview Thursday.
The reaction followed a more volatile Wednesday, suggesting that investors have already moved beyond their gut reactions, said Joseph Osha, a San Francisco-based analyst at JMP Securities LLC.
Most solar shares declined, with Canadian Solar and JinkoSolar both down more than 5 percent, on the first reports that Trump intended to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris agreement.
“It’s sentiment,” Angelo Zino, a New York-based analyst at CFRA Research, said in an interview Thursday. “Will Trump exiting the Paris-climate accord have an impact on solar demand in the next nine to 12 months? Probably not.”
Michael Liebreich, the London-based founder of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, put it another way: the Paris accord is “nothing more than an international framework for discussion and expectation-setting. There’s nothing binding about Paris other than discussions.”
In the U.S., federal tax credits and state-level renewables mandates have been key drivers of wind and solar growth. It’s not clear how Trump’s plan will affect these policies, if at all.
“The U.S. is so hedged around the initiatives at the state level,” Liebreich said in an interview Thursday. “As long as those are not dismantled on an accelerated time frame, nothing appreciably will change.”
Still, a broad U.S. shift away from efforts to curb emissions may eventually weigh on state-level renewable targets, Paul Coster, a New York-based analyst at JPMorgan Chase & Co., said in a research note Thursday.
“Innovation throughout distributed energy and storage is an irreversible trend that’s gaining momentum,” said Jeffrey Eckel, chairman and chief executive officer at Hannon Armstrong Sustainable Infrastructure Capital Inc., an Annapolis, Maryland-based financier of energy efficiency and renewable-energy projects. “You sell on rumors and buy on the news.”
Sistine Solar wants to help sustainability-minded homeowners who also care about aesthetics.
CURBED — No one would argue for the aesthetic beauty of the average solar panel—the dark, gridded rectangles blend into rooftops about as well as a penguin at a peacock party. But one MIT-born startup is hoping to change all that.
Sistine Solar creates panel systems that can be customized to visually match a shingled rooftop, an ad, or any other image you can imagine. The secret is a proprietary SolarSkin embedded in the panel that reflects back an image while still letting light through to the photovoltaic cells below.
Sistine Solar’s customization currently tacks on an additional 10 percent to the cost of a solar panel system, but the company is betting that homeowners will still prefer the camouflaged panels.
Their first residential installation just wrapped in December, and already Sistine Solar has had hundreds of inquiries—particularly in Massachusetts and California.
“We think SolarSkin is going to catch on like wildfire,” said co-founder Senthil Balasubramanian in an interview with MIT. “There is a tremendous desire by homeowners to cut utility bills, and solar is finding reception with them—and homeowners care a lot about aesthetics.”
But they’re certainly not the only ones betting on the “aesthetic solar” trend. Last October, electric car company Tesla revealed it’s creating a line of rooftop solar tiles made from four different types of glass panels, ranging from a Tuscan glass tile to a textured glass tile.
Another startup, the Italian company Dyaqua, has started manufacturing photovoltaic roof tiles that appear indistinguishable from terra cotta, wood, and stone. Sistine Solar’s apparent advantage among these companies is that you can install the camouflaged panels without needing to entirely re-roof your home.
The U.S. Navy has announced a groundbreaking ceremony for a solar generation facility at a base in Mississippi.
A Navy statement says the project on Naval Air Station Meridian will be commemorated Thursday afternoon.
The Navy, Tennessee Valley Authority, East Mississippi Electric Power Association and Silicon Ranch Corporation have partnered to develop the facility that will generate up to six megawatts of direct current power.
Silicon Ranch will fund, build, own, operate and maintain the facility that will provide power consumed by the base, as well as TVA and EMEPA customers.
It's expected to be complete in 2018 and will feature roughly 51,000 solar panels covering 38 acres.
The US military as a whole is targeting to generate 25% of its energy needs from renewable sources within 8 years as the Army ramps up its solar goals. Currently, 27 of the more than 400 domestic military bases have plans in motion for PV microgrids or already have them now.
Researchers from the University of Newcastle in Australia have found a way to print solar tiles. This method is cheaper and faster than traditional methods and could potentially be a game changer in the renewable energy industry.
FUTURISM — Solar panels are becoming exponentially cheaper. However, while a number of large-scale energy producers are shifting towards solar power, there is still a lack of homes that have adopted the technology.
In Australia, a place bathed in direct sunlight, price is still a major stumbling block for homeowners considering switching to solar. Things may be about to change, however, thanks to a new variety of solar tile developed by researchers from the University of Newcastle (UON).
Instead of the photovoltaics (PVs) that traditional panels use, UON’s Paul Dastoor and his team are testing printable solar tiles.
“It’s completely different from a traditional solar cell. They tend to be large, heavy, encased in glass — tens of millimeters thick,” Dastoor told Mashable. “We’re printing them on plastic film that’s less than 0.1 of a millimeter thick.”
Currently, UON is one of only three sites that are testing printed solar.
“We’ve put in the first 100 square metres of printed solar cells up on roofs, and now we’re testing that durability in real weather conditions,” Dastoor said. As soon as the performance and durability of these tiles are confirmed, it could easily go into market production.
CHEAP AND FAST
Dastoor and his team are excited about the potential these printed tiles have in influencing the wide-scale adoption of PVs, especially for homes.
“The low-cost and speed at which this technology can be deployed is exciting, particularly in the current Australian energy context where we need to find solutions, and quickly, to reduce demand on base-load power,” he explained in UON feature article.
Just for reference, Tesla’s solar tiles — which Elon Musk promised to be cheaper than regular roofs — are priced at around US $235 per tile.
Meanwhile, Dastoor’s printed solars can be sold at less than US$ 7.42 per tile, which is comparatively very cheap, “[W]e expect in a short period of time the energy we generate will be cheaper than that generated via coal-based fire stations,” Dastoor explained.
Of course, whether tiles are printed or created with traditional PVs, solar energy is currently a major leading renewable energy source. And, solar power is not only incredibly environmentally friendly — producing energy without harmful byproducts that contribute to climate change — it can also generate more energy than fossil fuels.
Electric cars aren't a slow, inefficient alternative to gas-powered vehicles. As the record-breaking all-electric Nio EP9 shows, it's possible to have a positive impact on the environment while going really, really, really fast.
FUTURISM — In the early days of electric cars, critics mocked their speed, and they gained a bit of a reputation as gas-powered cars’ slower, less powerful counterparts. While that may have been true in the past, it is certainly no longer the case.
Between Tesla’s lineup of everything from compact cars to semi trucks, Nissan’s futuristic sports car, and high-luxury brands like Porsche and Jaguar’s electric model releases, electric cars are now undeniably fast, efficient, and on the cutting edge of transportation technology.
This fact is more apparent than ever thanks to the Nio EP9. Currently the fastest electric car on the market, the vehicle can reach speeds up to about 312 km/h (194 mph). Recently, the car officially cemented itself as the fastest model with a record-breaking lap around the Nürburgring track. It finished the lap with a time of 6:45:9, beating its own 2016 record of 7:05:12.
THE FUTURE OF TRAVEL
Now, while the Nio EP9 is impressive, it’s probably not the most sensible vehicle for most drivers. The company is planning to produce only 10 EP9s each costing $1.48 million. But that doesn’t mean high-speed electric travel is out of the question for the average consumer.
Electric cars have already come a long way, and as more and more companies make the shift to producing electric models, the variety and capabilities of the vehicles will only continue to improve.
It is an unfortunate but irrefutable fact that climate change is only going to worsen if we keep living the way that we do. We, as a species, are simply relying too heavily on fossil fuels and producing too many greenhouse gasses, and both we and the planet will continue to suffer more and more as a result. From extreme weather patterns to natural disasters and unprecedented extinction rates, we are already feeling the effects.
And so, while switching to electric might not seem like that big of a deal, if we all made small (or large) changes to our daily lives in order to reduce our carbon footprint, we might have a real shot at combating climate change in a meaningful way.
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