Energy News Roundup: Even the solar eclipse is an energy issue

Energy News Roundup: Even the solar eclipse is an energy issue
April 4, 2024 Nicole Pollack, Great Lakes Now

In Ohio and other states in the path of Monday’s total solar eclipse, tons of harried officials are busy dealing with concerns like traffic congestion and hotel capacity. At least a few are also conscious of the fact that demand for electricity is going to spike at the same time that the supply of solar power temporarily plummets. But Ohio electric utilities say they’ve been preparing for months — and the grid is ready.

Also in Ohio, environmental groups are still fighting back against regulators’ recent decision to permit drilling for oil and gas under state parks and wildlife areas. A Franklin County judge dismissed the groups’ initial challenge to the decision last month after determining that the case was outside the court’s domain. The groups filed an appeal on March 22. Two out-of-state energy companies — one from West Virginia and the other from Texas — have leased the contested public lands and are expected to start drilling soon if the courts don’t intervene.

Meanwhile, a separate legal battle in Wisconsin has stalled the progress of a controversial power line after a federal judge temporarily blocked a land swap that would let the project cross the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge. The 102-mile Cardinal-Hickory Creek Transmission Line, which is already mostly complete, is intended to transport electricity from Iowa to Wisconsin. The utilities building planned to exchange about 36 acres of nearby land for about 19 acres in the refuge so that the line could cross; the trio of conservation groups that forced them to hit the brakes have been disputing the proposed land swap for years.

The past couple of weeks brought high highs and low lows for the Rust Belt’s budding clean energy manufacturing sector. Wisconsin’s four major electric utilities committed to using union labor for most of their new renewable energy and battery storage projects. The unions involved in the agreement expect it to cover close to 100 projects this decade. But Ford Motor Co. announced last week that it would cut two-thirds of the workforce building its electric pickup, the F-150 Lightning, this month amid low sales. The company says there won’t be layoffs: the remaining crew members will either retire or be reassigned to other factories.

Heavy industry could soon get a whole lot cleaner, thanks to billions of dollars for decarbonization distributed nationally by the Biden administration last week. Award recipients include an aluminum recycler and a cement plant in Indiana, glass manufacturers and steelmakers in Ohio, and food and drink producers with facilities throughout the Great Lakes region. The funding is aimed at industries that have especially large carbon footprints, often because they generate their own power or heat onsite and need more than renewable electricity to meet their fuel needs.

More energy news, in case you missed it:

  • The push to restart the shuttered Palisades nuclear power plant got a big boost last week in the form of a $1.5 billion conditional federal loan.
  • The Biden administration’s highway charging program for electric vehicles is off to a slow start, but Ohio and Pennsylvania were among the first states to take advantage of the funding.
  • Illinois leads the country when it comes to supporting local action on clean energy, but even it has room to improve, a recent report found.
  • Officials and researchers in Indiana plan to build the first U.S. highway segment that will wirelessly charge electric vehicles as they drive.

Catch more news at Great Lakes Now: 

The solar eclipse is a great opportunity for students and citizen scientists alike

Where to see rare solar eclipse in Ohio

Featured image: The 2017 total solar eclipse as seen from Madras, Oregon. (Photo Credit: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)


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