Brattle Study: Alternative Approach to Meeting Zero Net Energy Goals Can Benefit Consumers and the Environment

A flexible approach to meeting Zero Net Energy (ZNE) goals could benefit consumers and the environment, according to a study authored by Brattle economists released by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

ZNE homes are designed to produce as much energy from clean on-site energy sources as they consume each year. The study compares two approaches to meeting a ZNE goal for new housing developments: requiring solar installations on each home to offset annual electricity use or a community solar program in which homeowners receive a share of a combined solar array.

The analysis produced the following findings:

  • The economies of scale and technological advantages of community solar for new housing in non-urban areas would provide roughly 13 percent lower total solar project costs per watt of electricity generated than ZNE homes, and a 25 to 30 percent greater annual energy output than ZNE homes.
  • A community solar approach to ZNE could serve a 200-home development with a total project cost savings of approximately 30 to 35 percent relative to conventional ZNE configurations. Looked at another way, for the same amount of money, a community solar array yields an additional 40 to 45 percent carbon emission savings over individual rooftop installations.

REPORT: The Steep Price Of A Coal And Nuclear Bailout

In response to the new findings, Amy Farrell, AWEA’s senior vice president for government and public affairs, says, “This report sheds light on how costly the administration’s coal and nuclear bailout could be. The $10 billion to $35 billion this policy would take from American taxpayers to keep failing businesses open each year for the next two years is just the down payment – this misguided bailout would also completely upend the competitive electricity markets that are delivering billions in consumer savings. That’s a steep price to pay in an era of U.S. energy abundance, when independent regulators and grid operators agree that orderly power plant retirements do not constitute an emergency.”

“Giving aging power plants that are not needed to keep the lights on $34 billion just to exist – that’s money for nothing,” notes Malcolm Woolf, AEE’s senior vice president of policy. “It’s too high a price to pay when advanced energy resources and competitive markets can provide the necessary services to keep our grid affordable, reliable and secure. Independent assessments confirm that these power plants – most of which are decades old – are not needed to ensure reliability or security. We urge the Trump administration to abandon, and Congress to resist, this exercise in crony capitalism, which comes at the expense of American businesses, families and economy.”

The full report can be found here.

STUDY: Climate change to overtake land use as major threat to global biodiversity

The findings suggest that efforts to minimise human impact on global biodiversity should now take both land use and climate change into account instead of just focusing on one over the other, as the combined effects are expected to have significant negative effects on the global ecosystem.

Study author, Dr Tim Newbold (UCL Genetics, Evolution & Environment), said: "This is the first piece of research looking at the combined effects of future climate and land use change on local vertebrate biodiversity across the whole of the land surface, which is essential when considering how to minimise human impact on the local environment at a global scale.

"The results show how big a role climate change is set to play in decreasing levels of biodiversity in the next few decades and how certain animal groups and regions will be most affected."

REPORT The Economics of Electrifying Buildings

Seventy million American homes and businesses burn natural gas, oil, or propane on-site to heat their space and water, generating 560 million tons of carbon dioxide each year—one-tenth of total US emissions. But now, we have the opportunity to meet nearly all our buildings’ energy needs with electricity from an increasingly low-carbon electric grid, eliminating direct fossil fuel use in buildings and making obsolete much of the gas distribution system—along with its costs and safety challenges.


Yale Climate Opinion Maps – U.S. 2016

These maps show how Americans’ climate change beliefs, risk perceptions, and policy support vary at the state, congressional district, metro area, and county levels.

About the Data

Public opinion estimates are produced using a statistical model based on national survey data gathered between 2008 and 2016 by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason Center for Climate Change Communication. The Global Warming’s Six Americas segments are determined using 36 survey items that include questions about climate change beliefs, risk perceptions, behaviors, and policy support. “Metro” areas include both metropolitan and micropolitan areas as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau. For details see methods and Howe, P., Mildenberger, M., Marlon, J.R., and Leiserowitz, A., “Geographic variation in opinions on climate change at state and local scales in the USA,” Nature Climate Change. DOI: 10.1038/nclimate2583. Email for more information.

U.S. Wind Turbine Database

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, in collaboration with public and private partners, has released what it calls the most comprehensive publicly available database of U.S. wind turbine locations and characteristics.

The new United States Wind Turbine Database(USWTDB), funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Wind Energy Technologies Office and developed with the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), will be regularly updated more often than existing publicly available wind turbine datasets, says Berkeley Lab, which was supported by the DOE’s Wind Energy Technologies Office.

Feasibility and scalability of community battery storage

The aim of this feasibility study is to assess the feasibility and the scalability of the Community Battery, including sources of income still being developed, such as those of the regional grid operator in conjunction with additional sources of income or savings. Two actual cases were obtained from different grid operators and used for the purpose of calculations

The Consensus Handbook

Naomi Oreskes was the first to quantify the level of expert agreement on human-caused global warming in 2004. Analyzing 928 scientific papers on global climate change, she couldn’t find a single peer-reviewed paper rejecting human caused global warming. This was the first research that put hard numbers on the overwhelming scientific consensus, and was featured prominently in Al Gore’s award-winning movie, An Inconvenient Truth.

Climate-Driven Crop Yield and Yield Variability and Climate Change Impacts on the U.S. Great Plains Agricultural Production

By Meetpal S. Kukal & Suat Irmak

Climate variability and trends affect global crop yields and are characterized as highly dependent on location, crop type, and irrigation. U.S. Great Plains, due to its significance in national food production, evident climate variability, and extensive irrigation is an ideal region of investigation for climate impacts on food production. This paper evaluates climate impacts on maize, sorghum, and soybean yields and effect of irrigation for individual counties in this region by employing extensive crop yield and climate datasets from 1968–2013. Variability in crop yields was a quarter of the regional average yields, with a quarter of this variability explained by climate variability, and temperature and precipitation explained these in singularity or combination at different locations. Observed temperature trend was beneficial for maize yields, but detrimental for sorghum and soybean yields, whereas observed precipitation trend was beneficial for all three crops. Irrigated yields demonstrated increased robustness and an effective mitigation strategy against climate impacts than their non-irrigated counterparts by a considerable fraction. The information, data, and maps provided can serve as an assessment guide for planners, managers, and policy- and decision makers to prioritize agricultural resilience efforts and resource allocation or re-allocation in the regions that exhibit risk from climate variability.

Climate Change Implications for Nebraska

Climate change poses significant risks to Nebraska’s economy, environment and citizens. There is a need for unbiased sources of information on the issue across the state. This data can inform strategies to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to the changing climate. Responses are needed from all sectors of life in Nebraska, from the agriculture community to the legislature, and from the corporate sector to the community organization. The applied climate science group at the School of Natural Resources provides information here on climate change impacts to Nebraska.


Wind turbines are multiplying across the U.S., and most are installed in rural areas overlooking crops, cattle, timber, and lakes. Rural communities have experienced several benefits from the development of wind energy, but the growth of the industry has also presented a challenge in the form of local regulations that may be insufficient or out-of-date.

Wind ordinances on the city, county, and state levels may be hard to understand, whether you are an expert or just becoming familiar with the industry. The Center for Rural Affairs has gathered some helpful items to note when reviewing ordinances.