Environment

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There’s an experiment beginning in the Upper Valley: three communities are in the midst of a blitz attempting to double the number of solar panels in their towns. It’s called Solarize Upper Valley, and it’s being kicked off this week.

Plainfield and Cornish, combined, have fewer than 4,000 residents, but a pretty sizable number of them are considering forking over around eighteen grand to put solar panels on their roofs. The night of the kickoff event, the main street of Plainfield, was on lined both sides, for about as far as you could see.

Lawmakers in the Senate are scheduled to take up a series of much-anticipated energy bills today. There are four energy bills on the docket today, three of which are responses to controversial energy projects.

One would create state-owned rights of way for any new transmission line not needed to keep the lights on as determined by the regional grid operator. If passed developers would have to bury power lines, unless they could prove that isn’t feasible.

Donna Hiltz / NHPR

For the second year in a row, voters in the Newfound region have used town-meeting day to voice their disapproval of proposed wind development in the area. Ordinances and resolutions restricting wind development passed by wide margins. Alexandria, Danbury, Hebron and Ashland all passed wind related warrant articles by as much as five to one.

There were a wide variety of measures.

RGGI Inc / NHPR

The  price power plants will pay to emit a ton of carbon reached a new high in the latest Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative auction.

This quarter, it cost $4 to buy the right to emit a ton of carbon dioxide; previously, the highest price was $3.51, set in 2009.

In total New England power plant operators spent nearly $94 million to comply with  RGGI, funds which most states reinvest into energy efficiency programs.

The rising price is the result of a lower cap on carbon dioxide that the New England States enacted last year, and which took effect this auction.

Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

At town meeting this year, a handful of towns in the Newfound Lake region, and elsewhere, will take up questions related to wind farms. Many of these articles highlight the tensions between neighboring towns when one hosts a wind farm and its tax benefits, and the other just has to look at it. This dynamic often plays out in small town politics that may come to a head on town meeting day.

Flikr Creative Commons / Rickpilot_2000

There is a hint of light at the end of a two-year-long legal battle over waste-water treatment plant upgrades on the Great Bay.

The towns of Portsmouth, Rochester and Dover have been arguing that regulators with the Department of Environmental Services and the EPA hadn’t proved that requiring millions of dollars of state-of-the-art wastewater plants would substantially improve water quality. But after a panel of independent scientists issued a sharp critique of the science used by the DES, a deal could be on the horizon.

NHPR Staff

  Thursday Senator Jeanne Shaheen reintroduced a wide-ranging energy bill that would promote energy efficiency buildings and appliances. But Shaheen and her co-sponsor, Ohio Republican Rob Portman, had to make some compromises to get the long-stalled legislation moving again.

Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

In the Southern Lakes Region of New Hampshire, a bid is underway to conserve about a thousand acres of forested valleys and peaks in the Belknap range.  The fundraising campaign to buy this land has focused on a popular and convenient hike, Mount Major, on the shores of Alton Bay. As the project heads toward the finish line, it illustrates the tension between preserving access while still protecting ecosystems.

Everyday, “Two or Three Times”

Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

The developer of the proposed 23-turbine Wild Meadows wind farm has announced that it will put the project on hold. Iberdrola Renewables says it will focus its resources on resolving disputes around another wind farm in Groton.

“We don’t have a specific time table” said Paul Copelman, Iberdrola Spokesman, explaining that the application that is currently pending will have to be resubmitted.  

The New Hampshire House appears poised to send the question of whether the state's largest utility should sell its power plants to regulators.

In 2012, lawmakers tried to force PSNH to sell its power plants outright, but that effort stalled in the New Hampshire house. So this time around they’ve written a bill that asks the Public Utilities Commission to rule on whether that sale would eventually lower electric rates.

That bill got near unanimous support during a committee hearing Thursday, including from PSNH itself.

Flikr Creative Commons / Claudio Schwarz

New Hampshire’s energy community turned out at a Senate hearing on Wednesday to react to a senate bill proposing changes to the Site Evaluation Committee, which approves power plants. The proposed changes include shrinking the SEC to five members, including two public representatives, hiring dedicated support staff, and requiring projects have a net public benefit.

Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

  A new EPA Clean Air standard for wood stoves is set to take effect next year.

It has been 25 years since the EPA wrote the first woodstove regulations. Since the rules were last refreshed, the health hazards from the unburned particles in wood smoke have been researched and quantified. But with the new rules now pending, manufacturers are saying that prices for new stoves will rise, and worry that will result in more people sticking with dirty old stoves.

Cheap, But Dirty

The White House has announced that New Hampshire will host one of seven regional “climate hubs”. The Forest Service’s Northern Research Center in Durham will provide technical support to farmers and land managers working to adapt to climate change.

Courtesy: Civil Air Patrol

Despite a couple of long cold snaps, Lake Winnipesaukee is still not entirely frozen. A fly-over by the civil air patrol last weekend revealed a large patch of open water and unstable ice stretching from Gilford to Moultonborough. A large patch of open water sits in between Lake Shore Park and Welch Island, and questionable ice extends all the way to Long Island. This section of the lake is called “the Broads,” which is typically last to freeze.

Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

Wednesday the New Hampshire House of Representatives will take up a bill proposing a moratorium on wind turbines and electric transmission projects.

The Science, Technology, and Energy Committee voted 13 to 6 to recommend killing this bill, which failed to make it to the House floor last year, but the politics surrounding wind farms and Northern Pass have become volatile.

BlueRidgeKitties / Flickr CC

While frigid temperatures don’t feel particularly great, they do play an important role in the state’s ecosystem.

One way that cold temperatures can be helpful is by beating back the wave of invasive insects that have laid siege to the state’s forests, but State Entomologist Piera Siegert tells NHPR’s Brady Carlson that the some of the recent headlines about the impact of this cold on invasive bugs over-state the case in the Granite state.

Courtesy New Hampshire Magazine

Northern Pass is a highly controversial proposal to run new 180 miles of new power lines from Canada, through northern New Hampshire, down to Concord, and then eastward to Deerfield.

While a high-profile debate in the state, many New Hampshire residents are unsure of how Northern Pass compares to past energy projects, what both sides have at stake, and what the future of the region's energy supply could look like.

Ben McCleod via Flickr CC

When it comes to investing in energy efficiency, many in New Hampshire’s clean energy sector are worried the state is falling behind the rest of the region. A recent national report seems to bear that out. It ranks New Hampshire last in New England for efficiency policies. But efforts to ramp up the least controversial energy policy – using less – could have a hard time getting the support of the state’s business community.

Sam Evans-Brown; Data: Climate Counts / NHPR

A UNH backed project has come out with its latest ranking of which corporations are doing the most to combat climate change. The UNH spin-off Climate Counts finds only about half of the corporations ranked are on a sustainable track.

Julian- / Flickr Creative Commons

  Starting tomorrow Unitil customers will no longer be able to buy renewable energy from the utility.  Only 25 of the company’s 75,000 customers in the state opt to pay extra for renewable power, and the utility says the cost of running the program don’t justify continuing it.

Unitil’s Green Neighbor program has been around for three years, which is when the legislature required utilities to create such programs. But only .03 percent of their customers signed on, and so the law allows them to ask regulators for permission to shutter the renewable option.

Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

After a year of redesigns, the Wild Meadows Wind Farm has submitted its state application to be built in the towns of Alexandria and Danbury. But in the past 18 months, the ground has shifted dramatically beneath the feet of the industry in New Hampshire, these days uncertain winds swirl around the proposal.

On a recent fall day, Ed Cherian with the Spanish renewable energy giant Iberdrola gave a tour of his company’s Groton wind farm to a group of students from the New Hampton School. One of the blades whistles as it spins a sign that a condensation flap is stuck open.

Sergey Yeliseev / Flickr Creative Commons

  Ospreys, also called sea hawk or fish eagle, are found all over the world including here in New Hampshire, But wherever they live, when the temperature drops the birds head for the tropics. For juveniles that first migration is a crucible that only 25 to 40 percent survive.

A project in New Hampshire is tracking Granite State birds and learning about the many misadventures they have between their departure in the fall and return in the spring.

boboroshi / Flickr Creative Commons

The New Hampshire Electric Cooperative is working to install more electric car chargers in underserved parts of the state. The pilot has helped hotels in Jackson, Woodstock, Plymouth, North Conway and Lincoln put in chargers customers to use.

The coop is making the move because they believe there are indications that electric vehicles are beginning to gain a foothold.

“The growth of electric vehicles, if you follow the national trends, are growing twice as fast as regular hybrids grew,” says Gary Lemay, renewable energy engineer for the coop.

Google

New Hampshire has a new Superfund site in the town of Farmington. The 123-acre parcel once hosted Davidson Rubber Company, a plant that manufactured car parts like dashboards, trim pieces and bumpers. It’s taken seven years to get a contaminated former industrial site included into the federal clean-up program.

PSNH / Flickr Creative Commons

  A legislative committee got an update Tuesday on the investigation into the cost of a scrubber that cleans emissions from the state’s largest coal plant. Public Service of New Hampshire’s Merrimack station.

This spring the Public utilities commission will ultimately decide if PSNH spent a reasonable amount on its scrubber.

PSNH says it did, and tried to appeal to the Supreme Court saying it was legally mandated to install the scrubber, so it didn’t matter that the scrubbers cost nearly doubled from estimates

NHPR

On Monday Governor Hassan joined Democratic governors from seven other Northeastern states in asking the EPA to clamp down on emissions drifting over their borders from other states. The petition targets states upwind from the Northeast, which Governor Hassan says produce the vast majority of ozone-causing pollution in New Hampshire, wafts across our borders from the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic

“If we took every single car off our roadways, we still could only reduce ozone by three percent,” Hassan told reporters during a conference call.

Christian Patti / http://christianpatti.com/

The nine states that are members of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative have written the EPA to ask that RGGI be used as a model for forthcoming national regulations on emissions from existing power plants.

The EPA has already released rules on how much carbon dioxide new power plants are allowed to emit, But the rules that will crack down on existing plants are still in the works.

Sam Evans-Brown; Data: Electric Drive Transportation Association / NHPR

Today Public Service of New Hampshire launched its Electric Vehicle Hotline, where consumers can find out about electric cars currently on the market. The move comes as electric car sales have begun to pick up, and utilities see those drivers as a sales opportunity.

f2point8 / Flickr Creative Commons

  

Municipal Planners all around the state are teaming up with a University of New Hampshire Scientist to plan for Climate Change.

With funding from the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, Climate Scientist Cameron Wake has put together a new climate model that predicts more summer heat and bigger rain storms for many individual New Hampshire towns. On Monday, Wake presented the predictions to planners from the central part of the state, having already shown the findings to similar groups in the Upper Valley and the Monadnock Region.

Michael Kappel via Flickr CC

A rift has developed among New England states over who should pay for transmission lines needed to carry electricity from renewable energy projects.

The issue is whether ratepayers across the region should foot the bill for power lines needed for southern New England. The debate has pitted Vermont against some of the more populated states to our south.

Southern New England – in particular Massachusetts and Connecticut – needs more renewable generation to meet their clean-energy mandates.

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