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Largest Electric School Bus Order In US History — Montgomery County Orders 326 Buses (Just To Start)

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Solar Farms Can Be Good For Bees

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One of the things anti-solar people like to bring up is that it can take up space. Sure, rooftop solar is popular and doesn’t take up space that could be used by something else, but utility solar installations often entail large “farms” where acres and acres of land are taken up by long rows of solar panels. At the same time, we’re experiencing a decline in pollinators, especially bees. A recent study shows us that the two issues can actually be put together to solve them both.

Agrivoltaics

It’s nothing new for traditional farmers and solar farmers to work together to see if they can share a plot of land. This is known as agrivoltaics. Most crops can’t grow under solar arrays because they just don’t get enough light, but there are crops that do fine and maybe even a little better. This usually involves lower crop yields and fewer panels (and thus less electricity output), but the overall use of the land is greater than either use would yield alone. Panels must be raised above the ground a bit to allow room for agricultural machinery and workers in most cases, but the extra moisture below the panels helps lower their temperature and increase output.

Animal agriculture can also be a type of agrivoltaics when the land used for animals is shared with solar panels. For example, one can raise and graze smaller animals like goats or sheep in the same fields where solar panels generate electricity. By having grass or other animal-edible plants under the panels instead of bare dirt, the panels are more efficient.

When we think of animal agriculture, we don’t often think of insects. In many cases, insects are bad for crops because they’ll destroy the crops, eat them, or end up in the finished product. Bees are a special case, though. By placing beehives near a field, you can increase production by helping move more pollen around, while also ending up with honey that can be sold. It’s a win-win in that case, and it can be a win-win-win if you add solar panels to the mix. Even ground-based panels with little room under them can fit small plants and bees.

But does this work out well, for solar panels, bees, and a crop to all share a space? The limited light under panels, one might naturally think, would reduce the pollen and thus reduce the supply of food for the bee colonies. It turns out that this has been studied, and it’s something that can work out not only OK, but quite well for the bees.

What The Research Shows

The researchers put some plants under panels where they’d always get shade. They put others in between rows, where they’d get partial shade. Finally, they put some plants out in the sun to serve as a fair point of comparison (control).

The places where there was full shade, as one might intuitively guess, didn’t do so hot. There were fewer flowers and less diversity of flowers in the full shade, and thus it was less of a good place for the bees. The surprise came when the researchers compared the partial shade with the full sun groups. It turned out that pollinator abundance, diversity, and richness didn’t take a hit in the partial shade.

In fact, the partially shaded areas ended up having greater diversity and the bloom was delayed. This benefited later-season pollinators (including bees), which would give a pollinator an advantage in dry areas. The “farming” season would be longer for bees when there are areas with partial shade because the late season still has good pollen due to the delayed flowering.

When we aren’t talking about domesticated beehives, this availability of plants and flowers is especially important. When we cut down whole fields and leave them bare under a new solar farm, we deprive wild bees and other pollinators of any pollen to make food with. If we instead grow plants of some kind under the panels (even if the main goal is just to cool them off), the availability of food can actually increase in the solar farm’s area and help save wild bee populations from extinction.

Even if nothing is growing that humans can eat, it’s still beneficial for the health of bees and other pollinators (domesticated or wild) to not leave the ground bare under the panels. That may make management easier (no need to deal with weeds, etc), but it lowers panel efficiency compared to those that have plants beneath them to lower temperatures and increase moisture.

In other words, it’s good for the bees and the panels to have some flowering plants under the panels, especially between the rows where shade will be partial and not full. There’s no reason to not do this.

Why This Matters

The loss of bees worldwide is an extinction-level risk for humans. The plants we rely on to eat and stay alive in turn rely on bees to spread their pollen. If the pollen doesn’t get moved around from flower to flower and plant to plant, the plants can’t produce food. Obviously, that’s a bad thing for humans, because we need food.

Research shows that food production hasn’t been affected yet because the pollinator-plant system can take a pretty good hit before things go wrong. Even with 3/4 of the pollinators gone, things are largely OK at this point, and mathematical models show that this can continue under increasingly harsh conditions–to a point. When things get extreme and the tipping point is reached, human agriculture and the bees collapse completely, and fast.

If that happens, we might not all starve to death that year, many crops use wind for pollination or use vegetative propagation and thus no pollen is needed, but things will get bad. Some vital portions of our nutrition (notably vitamin A) would get wiped out. Billions would die as vital nutrition from fruits and vegetables was lost, and many others would get sick. If this went on long enough, it could end up killing us off in the long run.

Anything we can do to make more space for pollinators and make life better for them is better for us, too. Putting the plants in is good. Putting fields of solar with plants and some rows of honeybees is even better for the agriculture in an area. Bees can travel 5 or more miles from the hive, so it doesn’t take that many of these agrivoltaic fields to help.

Featured image: Beehives in Minnesota by Jonathunder, CC-BY-SA 3.0.


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Source: https://cleantechnica.com/2021/04/21/solar-farms-can-be-good-for-bees/

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EU Agrees To New Climate Law In Time For Biden Earth Day Summit, Xi Will Attend

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Earth Day 2022 will be a little out of the ordinary this year. Typically it is marked by flowery speeches, groups of elementary school children planting trees, and a collective shrug from most of the world’s roughly 8 billion human inhabitants.

Yet overall, Earth Day has been a success. Since its inception on April 22, 1970, it has served as a beacon, focusing our easily diverted attention on our terrestrial home and its constant degradation by human activity. Just as a lighthouse guides mariners to a safe harbor, Earth Day helps us navigate through dangerous waters and offers us the hope of a sustainable future. Such beacons, both real and imagined, are important, for as Forrest Gump taught us, “If you don’t know where you are going, you will probably not wind up there.”

Climate change wasn’t even a thing in 1970. The first Earth Day was an acknowledgement that we humans need to be good to our home if we expect to continue living here. In effect, Earth Day represents the collective knowledge of Indigenous people everywhere that using your home as a garbage dump is not a good long term strategy. The Earth doesn’t care if you came over on the Mayflower or what your political affiliation is. The only thing that matters is whether the human species uses its home wisely or stupidly. Right now, stupid seems to be winning as we pay lip service to cutting emissions while continuing to chop down our forests and eyeing the overheating Arctic as a place to extract even more oil and gas.

President Joe Biden has invited world leaders to a global climate conference on Thursday. The US and China are ramping up that war of words between them as China flexes its new-found economic and political muscles, but despite the growing hostility, President Xi Jinping has agreed to participate and will make an “important speech,” according to Hua Chunying, a spokesperson for the Chinese foreign ministry.

That’s good news. China is now the largest emitter of pollutants that contribute to a warming planet but the US is not far behind and had been doing so for far longer than China. Nevertheless, Xi announced recently that his country has set a goal of being carbon neutral by 2060. Is that fast enough? Maybe not, but it is a tectonic shift for one of the world’s largest economies and it makes China a leader in the battle to keep the planet from overheating.

EU Agrees To New Climate Law

After a marathon 15-hour bargaining session, negotiators from the member countries of the European Union agreed on a new Climate Law that will reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by “at least 55%” by 2030, compared to 1990 levels, according to Euractiv. The EU has announced its intention to be carbon neutral by 2050 and this new agreement will help it get there. The agreement means the EU members can come to the Biden Earth Day conference with an important new standard, one that will challenge other nations to respond in kind.

The 55% reduction is not quite the 60% approved earlier by the European Parliament, but the European Commission agreed to consider increasing the contribution of carbon sinks in order to bump up the EU’s climate ambition to 57%, although this is not written into the law. The negotiators also decided to establish an independent scientific advisory body, the European Scientific Advisory Board, to advise policymakers on the alignment of EU policies with the bloc’s climate neutrality goal.

“We raised the ambition of the 2030 net target to almost 57%, we got the GHG-budget and the Advisory board. We wanted more, but this is a good first step towards climate neutrality,” said Jytte Guteland, the Parliament’s lead negotiator. The new EU 2030 target translates into a “gross” reduction of 52.8% without carbon removals from agriculture and forestry.

The inclusion of “carbon sinks” made members of the Green party unhappy. They denounced the move as an “accounting trick” to meet the 55% goal for 2030. “By failing to establish a serious climate target without accounting tricks in the European Climate Law, the Green Deal fails to live up to the big speeches of the Ursula von der Leyen Commission,” said Michael Bloss, the lead negotiator for the Greens in the European Parliament.

The center right European People’s Party backed the “net” target for 2030. “A 55% net target for 2030 is very ambitious,” said German Christian Democrat Peter Liese. On Twitter, he hailed what he described as an “historical agreement.”

2040 & 2050 Targets

The Parliament did get a victory when it comes to setting a target for 2040, which will be informed by a greenhouse gas budget that determines how much carbon the EU can emit up to 2050 before it breaches the Paris Agreement. This will have separate calculations for emissions and carbon sinks. Beyond 2050, EU negotiators agreed to strive towards reaching negative emissions.

However, national representatives in the EU Council of Ministers did not agree to make the 2050 goal a legal obligation for every country individually. Instead, the 2050 climate goal will remain an objective for the EU to attain as a group, meaning some countries will be allowed to reach the objective later if others manage to decarbonize their economies sooner. “Unfortunately, the Council was not ready to accept climate neutrality for every member state. It will remain a collective target,” Liese said.

Road Maps

The negotiators did agree that the European Commission would help create road maps for decarbonization for industrial sectors that make a request for it. The EU executive will then facilitate dialogue, share best practices, and monitor progress. As part of concessions made to EU member states, Parliament negotiators dropped demands regarding access to justice and fossil fuel subsidies. The Commission however promised to come back to the issue by defining energy subsidies, including those for fossil fuel, through the clarification of rules under the Governance Regulation.

Talking Heads

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said she was “delighted” that a deal has been reached on the climate law. “Our political commitment to becoming the first climate neutral continent by 2050 is now also a legal commitment. The Climate Law sets the EU on a green path for a generation. It is our binding pledge to our children and grandchildren.”

Frans Timmermans, the Commission’s executive vice-president in charge of the European Green Deal, was equally cheerful, saying: “This is a landmark moment for the EU. We have reached an ambitious agreement to write our climate neutrality target into binding legislation, as a guide to our policies for the next 30 years. The Climate Law will shape the EU’s green recovery and ensure a socially just green transition.”

“Today’s agreement also reinforces our global position as a leader in tackling the climate crisis. When world leaders gather on Earth Day, the EU will come to the table with this positive news, which we hope will inspire our international partners. This is a good day for our people and our planet,” he added while noting the importance of the agreement when it comes to presenting the EU position on the world stage, such as during Biden’s Earth Day climate conference.

Pascal Canfin, the chairman of the European Parliament’s environment committee, said “Today, Europe confirms its leadership in the fight against climate change. Twenty-four hours before the climate leaders’ summit, we are further strengthening our European climate objectives thanks to a reduction in our emissions which will reach nearly 57% compared to 1990. Parliament was obviously ready to go even further, but the compromise found is ambitious: we are going to do two and a half times more in nine years than what we have done in the last 10 years in Europe.”

Slow & Steady

Many will chafe at the pace of progress. Some of the world’s leading climate scientists warn the world has only 8 years to get its house in order before global warming reaches a tipping point and a long slide into oblivion for the human race begins. Others will bemoan the 4 years wasted by the previous administration which decided to deal with the crisis by throwing a tantrum.

But it is what it is, as Patriots head coach Bill Belichek likes to say. We are hours away from what may be an historic inflection point in the process of keeping the Earth habitable by humans. The challenges are enormous but they have to be dealt with responsibly, which means actual adults tackling them head on.

A good agreement is one in which nobody is completely happy. The nature of politics is that no one gets everything on their wish list. The outcome of this week’s global climate conference will help inform us whether we as species are willing and able to address those challenges in a meaningful way.


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Source: https://cleantechnica.com/2021/04/21/eu-agrees-to-new-climate-law-in-time-for-biden-earth-day-summit-xi-will-attend/

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American Home Contractors Is Bringing Tesla Solar To The Mid-Atlantic Region

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Sykesville native David Silverstein is the vice president of American Home Contractors, which was recently certified to install Tesla Solar Roofs. The Baltimore Sun interviewed Silverstein about his company and his experience with Tesla solar.

Several months ago, American Home Contractors completed the training before being approved by Tesla as a certified installation company. In November of last year, Silverstein added Tesla solar tiles to his home, and he along with his family now receive clean and reusable energy from the sun. His goal is to reduce his carbon footprint and get away from fossil fuels.

“It’s really important that we transition people over to sustainable energy,” Silverstein said in the interview. “This is obviously satisfying that mission. There’s no better time to go solar than when you’re replacing your roof.”

Tesla’s integrated roofing system is the first of its kind in Carroll County, and Silverstein’s company has already installed several in the area. Silverstein noted that his next project is in Eldersburg. His company serves customers in Maryland, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. He noted that fewer than 100 Tesla roof systems have been installed around Maryland so far, so there’s a lot of market space to expand into.

He’s also using Tesla Powerwalls to store energy collected during the day for use later at night or on cloudy days.

“I’m thrilled with it, and everyone that we’ve installed the roof for has been ecstatic,” he told The Baltimore Sun. “The pictures online don’t really do it justice.”

His system was turned on back in January and his home ran smoothly during the winter months. “It’s completely sustainable,” he said. “If the power goes out, or if the grid goes down, we’re able to generate clean electricity and consume it, charge, discharge, and continue that cycle indefinitely.”

American Home Contractors’ marketing director, Sarah Jachowski, also shared her thoughts in the interview. She pointed out that partnering with Tesla has been a boon for the company and that the company is the only certified Tesla installer in the Mid-Atlantic region. “Tesla was kind of on our radar for sure,” she said. “It was one those, we wanted to reach for the stars and hopefully land on the moon at some point.”

Silverstein believes that even though Tesla’s solar system can cost $50,000 and up, many will see this as an investment rather than a cost. After all, a new roof also isn’t cheap, and it doesn’t create electricity for decades to come like a Solar Roof does. “I think a lot more people are going to be interested in this product as more and more people adopt it and it’s getting out in the market,” he said. “There are going to be additional versions. They’re going to optimize this.”

“Partnering with Tesla has been great,” Silverstein said. “This is just the start, this is just the beginning. … I want to try and help as many people in Carroll County as we can.”


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Source: https://cleantechnica.com/2021/04/21/american-home-contractors-is-bringing-tesla-solar-to-the-mid-atlantic-region/

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American Home Contractors Is Bringing Tesla Solar To The Mid-Atlantic Region

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Published

on

Sykesville native David Silverstein is the vice president of American Home Contractors, which was recently certified to install Tesla Solar Roofs. The Baltimore Sun interviewed Silverstein about his company and his experience with Tesla solar.

Several months ago, American Home Contractors completed the training before being approved by Tesla as a certified installation company. In November of last year, Silverstein added Tesla solar tiles to his home, and he along with his family now receive clean and reusable energy from the sun. His goal is to reduce his carbon footprint and get away from fossil fuels.

“It’s really important that we transition people over to sustainable energy,” Silverstein said in the interview. “This is obviously satisfying that mission. There’s no better time to go solar than when you’re replacing your roof.”

Tesla’s integrated roofing system is the first of its kind in Carroll County, and Silverstein’s company has already installed several in the area. Silverstein noted that his next project is in Eldersburg. His company serves customers in Maryland, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. He noted that fewer than 100 Tesla roof systems have been installed around Maryland so far, so there’s a lot of market space to expand into.

He’s also using Tesla Powerwalls to store energy collected during the day for use later at night or on cloudy days.

“I’m thrilled with it, and everyone that we’ve installed the roof for has been ecstatic,” he told The Baltimore Sun. “The pictures online don’t really do it justice.”

His system was turned on back in January and his home ran smoothly during the winter months. “It’s completely sustainable,” he said. “If the power goes out, or if the grid goes down, we’re able to generate clean electricity and consume it, charge, discharge, and continue that cycle indefinitely.”

American Home Contractors’ marketing director, Sarah Jachowski, also shared her thoughts in the interview. She pointed out that partnering with Tesla has been a boon for the company and that the company is the only certified Tesla installer in the Mid-Atlantic region. “Tesla was kind of on our radar for sure,” she said. “It was one those, we wanted to reach for the stars and hopefully land on the moon at some point.”

Silverstein believes that even though Tesla’s solar system can cost $50,000 and up, many will see this as an investment rather than a cost. After all, a new roof also isn’t cheap, and it doesn’t create electricity for decades to come like a Solar Roof does. “I think a lot more people are going to be interested in this product as more and more people adopt it and it’s getting out in the market,” he said. “There are going to be additional versions. They’re going to optimize this.”

“Partnering with Tesla has been great,” Silverstein said. “This is just the start, this is just the beginning. … I want to try and help as many people in Carroll County as we can.”


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Source: https://cleantechnica.com/2021/04/21/american-home-contractors-is-bringing-tesla-solar-to-the-mid-atlantic-region/

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