Moody’s: Renewables continue growing at coal’s expense

first_img FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Financial Times ($):Emerging markets are set to eclipse developed nations next year in their capacity to generate wind and solar power as equipment costs fall and the energy market approaches “peak coal”, according to Moody’s, the credit rating agency.While developed countries have long been leaders in renewable power generation, emerging economies are close to overtaking them, bringing their total installed capacity of wind and solar to 307GW and 272GW — respectively 51 per cent and 53 per cent of global capacity, according to Moody’s calculations.China accounts for the lion’s share of the upsurge. But Middle East and north African countries are scheduled to have installed 14GW in solar plants by the end of 2018 — a seven-fold increase from 2015. Central and South America are also expected to reach 14GW, nearly five times more than in 2015, while India is set to hit 28GW, a jump of nearly six times.“Everyone knows the cost of installing solar and wind energy has been coming down, but recently we have seen prices hitting extreme lows in places such as Mexico, Chile, India and Abu Dhabi,” said Swami Venkataraman, senior vice-president at Moody’s Investors Service. “This fall in costs is definitely changing the calculus of [emerging market] governments, allowing them to pursue renewables much more aggressively,” he added.Another factor is the onset of “peak coal” in the energy market. In 2013, the US Energy Information Administration projected that world coal demand would rise 39 per cent by 2040. Now it is expecting growth of just 1 per cent.More ($): Emerging markets poised to lead pack on renewable energy Moody’s: Renewables continue growing at coal’s expenselast_img read more

New study shows almost 7GW of battery storage in U.K. pipeline

first_img FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享BusinessGreen:The UK’s nascent energy storage sector is surpassing all expectations and is set to deliver close to 7GW of capacity in the next few years, over a decade earlier than previously thought. That is the conclusion of a new analysis by trade bodies RenewableUK and the Solar Trade Association (STA) published ahead of the groups’ first energy storage conference in London today.It shows that planning applications for new battery storage projects have soared from just 2MW of capacity in 2012 to a cumulative total of 6,874MW today. Crucially, the bulk of the pipeline of proposed projects has a good likelihood of being built. Currently 92 per cent of storage projects secure planning permission from their first application, while investors are increasingly attracted to projects that promise to tap into a range of new revenue streams through the grid balancing services they can offer.The analysis forms part of a new database, which will allow RenewableUK members to access comprehensive information on nearly 400 UK energy storage projects. It will show where operational projects are located on an interactive map, and highlight those projects in planning or under construction, including those sited alongside solar, wind and tidal energy projects.The study also shows that improvements in battery technology mean the size of battery projects is increasing. The average capacity of applications for new battery storage projects has risen from 10MW in 2016 to 27MW today.RenewableUK said that there is already 3.3GW of storage capacity, including hydro projects, operational in the UK and a further 5.4GW has planning consent, including 4.8GW of battery storage.The data provides further evidence of the speed at which the UK power sector is transforming. Writing on Twitter, Green Alliance’s Chaitanya Kumar noted that 7GW of energy storage capacity would be higher than most National Grid projections for the sector in 2030.More: Powered up: New database reveals stellar growth of U.K. energy storage sector New study shows almost 7GW of battery storage in U.K. pipelinelast_img read more

Smaller companies looking to buy renewable energy now have more options

first_imgSmaller companies looking to buy renewable energy now have more options FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Fast Company:It sounds like the opening line of a sustainable businesses’ nerd joke: Bloomberg, Salesforce, Gap Inc., Cox Enterprises, and Workday walked into a solar purchasing agreement together. But this is actually something that is happening: The five companies have teamed up to collectively act as the anchor tenant of a new 100-megawatt solar project in North Carolina. They’ll be able to use the shared solar to offset the energy use of some of their own operations across the country, and the purchase will help increase the share of clean energy flowing through the local grid.New renewable energy projects, like a solar farm of this scale, generally need the backing of a large company to provide both the demand for the energy and the funding. Google and Apple, for instance, have both backed large solar developments across the country in order to meet their respective goals of reaching 100% renewably powered operations.It’s often more difficult for smaller companies to fund and access smaller amounts of renewable energy. But in recent years, a handful of companies–like the five above–have teamed up to collectively purchase renewable energy. This model, called energy aggregation, lowers costs for purchasers, and allows smaller companies with more minimal energy needs to participate in the clean energy market.But most energy aggregation deals are still led by a large anchor tenant. A deal finalized last year, for instance, saw Apple finance the majority share of both a wind and solar project, under which three smaller companies–Akamai, Etsy, and Swiss Re–gained access to a few megawatts of wind and solar. The deal between Bloomberg, Cox, Workday, Gap Inc. and Salesforce is unique because each partner will split the financing and the energy supply equally. The five businesses connected with each other two years ago through an event hosted by the Rocky Mountain Institute’s business renewables center. They decided they wanted to pool resources toward the development of a renewable energy project, but how they could do so was less clear.Separate to the conversation happening between those five businesses, a Seattle-based startup, LevelTen Energy, was coming up with an answer. The company launched three years ago with the idea to develop a marketplace – “sort of like a matchmaking service,” says CEO Bryce Smith–to connect potential energy buyers with renewable projects in development across the country. LevelTen’s marketplace, which came around a year ago, is designed to help smaller companies, or those with lighter energy needs, purchase slices of renewable energy projects that fit their needs.More: Why Salesforce, Gap, Bloomberg, and others are teaming up to buy solarlast_img read more

Dutch to close Amsterdam coal plant in 2020, four years early

first_imgDutch to close Amsterdam coal plant in 2020, four years early FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Reuters:The Dutch government will close one of the five coal-fired power plants in the Netherlands next year, four years earlier than originally planned, to help reach its climate goals, Dutch broadcaster RTL reported on Thursday. The decision follows a 2018 court order instructing the government to ensure greenhouse gas emissions are reduced from 1990 levels by at least 25 percent by the end of 2020.Current plans call for the two oldest coal-fired plants in the country to be shut in 2024 and for the other three to stop running by 2030.But as part of a push to abide by the court ruling, the government will on Friday decide to shut the Hemweg plant in Amsterdam, owned by Sweden’s Vattenfall, next year, government sources told RTL.Vattenfall last year said it would abide by the law and shut the Amsterdam plant by 2024. The company two years ago said it was willing to shut the plant by 2020 in return for 55 million euros ($62 million) in damages.Shutting Vattenfall’s plant, built in 1994, would cut CO2-emissions in the Netherlands by almost 2 million tonnes, while the Netherlands needs to get rid of 9 million tonnes in order to reach next year’s goal.More: Dutch to close Amsterdam coal-fired power plant four years earlylast_img read more

PacifiCorp RFP ‘a big deal’ for renewable energy, battery storage developers

first_imgPacifiCorp RFP ‘a big deal’ for renewable energy, battery storage developers FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Greentech Media:Utility group PacifiCorp is about to open a gusher of opportunity for wind, solar and energy storage developers in the Pacific Northwest and Rocky Mountain regions.Last year utility PacifiCorp finalized a landmark integrated resource plan (IRP) that for the first time envisions it relying on large amounts of wind farms and solar backed by energy storage to meet its long-range energy needs. Now the utility, part of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway conglomerate, is preparing a solicitation for projects to meet that plan’s needs through 2024, taking a concrete step toward its vision.PacifiCorp’s new all-source request for proposals “is a big deal,” said Spencer Gray, executive director of the Northwest & Intermountain Power Producers Coalition, a trade group with members including EDF Renewable Energy, Invenergy, Constellation Exelon, Shell Energy North America and others. While many details still need to be worked out before the RFP’s anticipated opening in July, “from our perspective, this is a major shift in the region,” Gray said in a Friday interview.For renewables developers, several things stand about PacifiCorp’s upcoming solicitation, said Gray. First and most obviously, “it’s just so large,” he said. PacifiCorp’s IRP preferred portfolio includes 1,823 megawatts of new solar resources co-located with 595 megawatts of new battery energy storage system capacity, and 1,920 megawatts of new wind resources — all by the end of 2023.Another point about the IRP stands out for renewables developers: PacifiCorp itself isn’t proposing to build any projects itself that could undermine independent developers’ projects. That stands in contrast to how some utilities are operating in other regions as they grow more comfortable building and owning solar and wind plants. Instead, PacifiCorp intends to seek out projects that will either build and transfer their assets to PacifiCorp to rate-base them, or provide energy and capacity through power purchase agreements (PPAs), Gray said. “Having a mix is important for retaining the diversity of resources in the region.”PacifiCorp already has a significant amount of wind power on its system, as well as several large-scale solar projects. But this is the first time that it has sought solar power and energy storage as a cost-competitive alternative to natural gas for new resources. The emphasis on storage-backed solar is driven by two key factors, First, as part of its responsibility for providing reliability across the multi-state transmission network it serves, “we did need some incremental flexible capacity across the system,” and “those ended up as battery storage projects.” Second, batteries paired with solar are eligible for the federal investment tax credit (ITC) for solar power, making them more cost-effective than standalone storage projects, he said.[Jeff St. John]More: PacifiCorp readies huge solicitation for renewables, energy storagelast_img read more

Paradise Lost

first_imgTwo friends contend with spiders, snakes, and male-pattern baldness on a road trip through Pisgah National Forest.I seriously doubt Moses could clear this ditch,” Jeremiah says as he shoulders his mountain bike and steps gingerly across the log bridge that spans a relatively dry seasonal creek bed. “And yes, I’m aware that he parted the Red Sea.”We’ve been discussing the hypothetical mountain biking skills of various biblical figures. It’s just one of those tangents you find yourself on when you’re miles deep into the forest on a bike with one of your best friends.We’re riding Cove Creek Trail in North Carolina’s Pisgah National Forest. For the most part, the trail is mind-blowingly fun, with just enough elevation drop to keep you from having to pedal, but not so much that it sketches you out. The tread is even smooth—practically manicured by Pisgah standards—with low berms at most turns and easy-going rolling dips. The whole ride plays out like a carefree linear pump track in the heart of one of the gnarliest national forests in the country. But every once in a while on Cove Creek, you have to cross a momentum-killing creek bed with a steep drop over jagged ill-kempt stairs leading to a slick as snot log bridge which carries you directly into the other side of the creek, which is near vertical with three-foot-high steps rising to level ground. There are half a dozen of these technical juggernauts, and we can’t imagine anyone clearing every single one of them on a bike. Not even Moses.Jeremiah and I are a couple of hours into a mini mid-life crisis escape. Picture two guys in their mid-30s with varying degrees of baldness who spend their days either trapped inside a cubicle or trying to convince their children to take a nap. Picture them reminiscing about their previous lives (pre-career and pre-kid), where days were spent mountain biking, trail running, and tromping through steep mountain creeks. This trip is our desperate attempt to recapture that youth: A two-day mini-road trip through Pisgah and Nantahala National Forests packed with mountain biking, rock climbing, hiking, and swimming holes. I suppose we could’ve gone with the traditional hair-plug and convertible douche-mobile route, but two days killing it in the woods seemed to be more our speed.The trip begins with an easy grind up a gravel road leading to Daniel Ridge Loop, a four-mile singletrack horseshoe that climbs and descends the slope hovering above the popular Davidson River. Uber-hip Brevard is just 10 minutes down the road. Our homes in Asheville are only 45 minutes away.We have less than two full days of freedom ahead of us, so we’re keeping the road miles low and focusing on the adventures in our backyard. The plan is to drive a single road (FR 475) that cuts through the middle of Pisgah before running into Nantahala National Forest, bagging as many adventures as we can along the way. We have a checklist to work through, sort of a backlog of adventures that we’ve neglected over the last year. Bike some of Pisgah’s classic singletrack. Climb the boulders at the base of Looking Glass Rock. Camp. Hunt for waterfalls. My tiny 15-year-old Jetta is loaded down with bikes, tents, sleeping bags, a huge crash pad that Jeremiah thinks looks like one of those sex props you see in the back of shady men’s magazines, and more wicking fabric than we could use in a week.Waterfall in Pisgah National ForestDaniel Ridge Loop follows the Upper Davidson for the first half-mile, taking us past primo unused campsites and one very sensitive-looking barefoot guy playing the guitar to himself on the side of the river. As soon as the tread transitions from gravel to singletrack, our pace slows down. We’re hitting the trail after a thunderstorm, so we get sucked into thick patches of black mud and fumble through root gardens still glistening from the rain. Daniel Ridge has a number of steep fall-line climbs littered with fist-sized rocks. Mountain biking is all about rhythm and momentum. We have neither, so we end up walking anything remotely technical. I blame the slick conditions, but in the back of my head, I know it’s because we’ve forgotten the nuances of mountain biking. After years of building up our skills in Pisgah, we’re starting from scratch, veritable babes in the woods.The higher we climb up the ridge, the bigger and slicker the boulders get. After pushing up the trail and praying that no one we know passes by, we top out and begin the bomber descent, which is just as steep, but considerably less rocky. Instead of boulders, we navigate hip-deep ruts in the dirt and the occasional well-worn waterbar drop. I brake too much and have to stop occasionally to shake out my hands and forearms. By the time we hit Cove Creek Trail, muscle memory has kicked in and we fly through the singletrack giggling like schoolgirls…or two overworked dads playing hooky from all sorts of responsibilities. We know the emails are piling up. We know our kids are throwing tantrums and eating junk food. But there’s nothing we can do about it. We’re riding bikes.We’re speckled with dark mud after the ride, so we head straight to Whaleback, an ice-cold swimming hole with a small rock slide and jump that’s popular with the YMCA summer camp crowd. We soak our legs and try to remember the last time we rode bikes together.“One thing’s for sure,” Jeremiah says. “We’re not very good at mountain biking anymore.”After setting up camp between a dusty forest road and a feeder stream to the Davidson, we drop into downtown Brevard for a cheap dinner and a visit to the newly opened Brevard Brewing Company, which specializes in easy-drinking German style lagers.  The beer goes down easy, but we’re too beat from the ride to put a serious dent in the kegs. By 9:30, we’re tucked into our sleeping bags, drifting off to the babble of the creek a few feet from our tents. Check that off the list.We rise at the crack of 8 a.m. the next morning and drive the steep gravel road to the north side of Looking Glass, where a cluster of tall, granite boulders sits at the base of the cliff, known for its stout multi-pitch traditional routes. If we had the time, we would’ve hired a guide to take us up one of the easier routes on Looking Glass, but considering our brief window of opportunity, we’re happy to dink around on the boulders, which stand in the shadow of Looking Glass, both literally and figuratively.On the hike in, Jeremiah complains about his back hurting after sleeping on the camp pad. I tell him my hip is killing me.“I like camping in theory, but I think I might be more of a hotel guy now,” I say, as we approach the boulderfield.Pisgah National Forest Swimming HoleAt first glance, most of the boulders are featureless, and we have to hunt for the vague chalk residue left by previous boulderers. The majority of problems are in the V3-V7 range, well above our pay grade, but we spend some time playing around on a long, squat hunk of rock with a pyramid-shaped shelf rising and falling along its upper lip. There’s nothing in the way of a foothold, so we have to smear, trying to keep our feet pushed flat against the rock as we traverse to the right. We end up doing a mini-circuit of the boulder field, finding a fun, easy crack system that leads to a sketchy top-out, and an overhanging problem that’s way over our heads. The north side boulders don’t get a lot of attention, so the first person to climb each problem gets to contend with spiders and other creepy things stuck deep into the pocketed holds.One problem is so choked with spider webs, it looks like it’s covered with cotton candy, so we decide to skip it altogether.“Spiders didn’t used to bother me,” I tell Jeremiah as we hunt for something “cleaner” to climb.“Okay, grandpa,” Jeremiah says. It sounds mean, but he’s just upset because every picture I take seems to highlight his balding head.Even when we were climbing regularly, we weren’t very good, so our moves up each boulder now, after a year-long hiatus, are janky and comical. We make the easiest problem look impossible. Still, it’s fun to move like a climber again. It’s foreign and vaguely familiar at the same time.We power through peanut butter and jelly sandwiches as we drop back down the gravel road, leaving a gray-white wake of dust behind us on our way toward Nantahala National Forest, where a river full of rock hopping, waterfalls, and swimming holes awaits.The sky is getting increasingly dark as we park on the edge of Wolf Creek Lake, a gorgeous 183-acre body of water cut into the mountains west of Panthertown Valley that’s popular with anglers in trolling boats.  A thunderstorm is imminent, but we’re determined to tick the last item off our checklist, so we drop down the steep user-created trail that tumbles down the side of Wolf Creek Gorge. Say what you will about user-created paths, they get straight to the point. This trail follows the fall line over boulders and tangled roots and through tunnels of rhododendron, dropping several hundred feet in a quarter of a mile. It’s a completely unsustainable trail, but totally memorable.The trail bottoms out at the base of Paradise Falls on Wolf Creek. The falls itself is fairly unimpressive, a skinny shoot of water dropping maybe 15 feet. But the setting is unlike anything else I’ve seen in the South. A broad, deep, green pool leads to a 50-foot high slot canyon. Swim across that pool, and into the mouth of the canyon and you can climb a rope to the second story of the falls, where the gorge opens up and leads to a taller, more dramatic vertical falls. Paradise Falls is the most appropriately named waterfall I’ve ever seen.We throw rocks at some spooky looking fish that have been eyeballing us from the edge of the water and start swimming across the pool to the slot canyon. When I’m about 10 feet away from the entrance, I notice the giant snake, roughly the color of death, hanging out on the side of the canyon. Looking at me. Before I can finish saying, “shit, there’s a snake,” Jeremiah has already turned around and started swimming back to dry land.Sitting on the edge of the river, staring at the python, we try to figure out what a copperhead looks like. I’ve got no reception on my iPhone, so that’s no help, but the name of the falls (Paradise) and the giant snake at the entrance to said falls is all too biblical for me, so we decide to give the snake some space and start rock hopping downstream and look for a swimming hole with less symbolism.We find a few potholes to sink into and a mossy gorge with a slide but eventually decide it’s time to man up and face our fears. Luckily, by the time we swim back to the entrance of Paradise Falls, the snake is gone, so we don’t have to prove our manhood. Still, we feel like we’ve regained something. Yes, we’re scared of snakes and spiders and sleeping in a tent makes our hips hurt, but at our core, we are mountain men. At least, for a couple of days out of the year, when we’re not changing diapers or CC-ing 30 people on an email. •mini epic By the Numbers 4 – Number of adventures (mountain biking, bouldering, hiking, waterfall swimming)26 – Total number of hours on the trip door to door 1 – Number of breweries 26 – Miles driven during the two-day triplast_img read more

Own It

first_imgI’ve neglected you, my dear readers.It’s been over two weeks since my last post and I feel terrible about that.The bad news? I will continue to neglect you until the new year.The good news? I’ve received a very important lesson on how to own your time that I feel is important to share with you fine people.Rewind to my last blog post, if you will. In it, I relay a very brutal road biking experience, my first one ever, on the backcountry roads of western Pennsylvania. It was great, despite the fact that I hobbled around from a sore set of limbs for nearly two days after. But that was one of the last times I went outside to play for awhile, for then came my father’s birthday, followed by Thanksgiving, followed by an unrelenting week of catching up on stories, planning for 2015, and, unfortunately, recovering from yet another bout with a head cold.What that meant for me was, mainly, a lot of time spent indoors. Not out enjoying the beautiful snow we had on Thanksgiving. Not out soaking in the unseasonably warm weather in the days leading up to the holiday. Not out running through the kinda dreary, wet, and cold week that followed Thanksgiving. Not, even, a daily yoga session to keep my sanity in tack.IMG_0317 IMG_0309No, I was far too gone for that. I was “in over my head” in work, in deadlines, in personal errands that needed taken care of, in catching up with old friends one last time before I left town. I was “too busy,” too sick, too stressed, too tired (I am a grandma when it comes to sleep). But at the end of the day, those were all just excuses, and poor ones at that. What I needed most in those hectic days was just a little time outside for even a half hour to reboot, recharge, and disconnect a little from the grind. And in reality, there is no excuse good enough for not doing that.I finally came to that realization last Friday when my boss Blake and I decided to take the day from work and cruise around in the Jeep to a local fly-fishing spot outside of Charlottesville, Va. I know I’ve just spent the past 300-some words complaining about how I only got outside once in the span of two weeks, but I know many people who get less than that in a month. Blake may very well be one of those people – between family obligations and running multiple businesses, it’d be an understatement to say he has a lot of irons in the fire.So when he agreed to teach me how to cast a line that day (I’d not so much as picked up a fly rod until then), I was more than happy to ditch the stress of upcoming deadlines for a day on the water, despite my apprehensions about how much fun you can realistically have fly-fishing.20141205_TBP_0004Fly-fishing has, to me, always represented the epitome of patience. There’s a real art to it, to staying still, a trait I always knew I lacked but one that Blake continually reprimanded me for as we stood on the banks of the Moorman’s River, casting our lines (or, more appropriately for me, unsticking my line from trees) into the murky gray waters.“Just leave it there,” Blake said. “You have to wait. This isn’t like kayaking.”“I’m borrrreeeddd,” I jokingly whined, but in reality, boredom was the furthest thing from my mind. Fly-fishing was new territory for me, something I had yet to try in the past seven months of living on the road. I’d certainly been around people fly-fishing, had shot a number of videos and photos of other people fishing, but I’d never taken the leap and tried it myself.After that road biking trip in Pennsylvania, I thought my adventurous days were over until the new year. I was already looking ahead, months ahead, into the 2015 calendar, planning stories, setting personal goals for bucket list items I wanted to check off. While fly-fishing wasn’t necessarily on that list, I was grateful we had set aside some time to step away from the office, if only for a few hours and despite the fact that I caught no fish at all (check out just how bad I am at fishing in this episode of BRO-TV).The weekend following the fly-fishing excursion were by far some of the most productive days for me yet. I felt refreshed, and I don’t think it was due to the fact that my phlegmy cough and stuffed up nose were finally starting to subside. I went for a run that Saturday morning, cranked out work all through the afternoon and into the evening, and even took a long 10+-mile hike from Spy Rock to the Priest with a dear friend of mine.PRIESTBut the two days following that Saturday and Sunday were just like the week prior – I didn’t go for a quick lunch run, I didn’t go to any yoga classes, and I allowed the things I’d so easily compartmentalized over the weekend dominate my every waking minute. This was due, in part, to the fact that I was about to go on vacation for two weeks to Mexico. Though my job is fun and awesome in so many ways, I had yet to take a break from the magazine in the year-and-a-half since I’d started working there. In my personal opinion, there is never a good time to take a vacation. But all things considered, the time right before Christmas seemed like the best of worst times to disappear for a couple weeks.As excited as I was about leaving the country, I was desperately trying to get ahead with work, prepare for my trip, and ensure that everything was taken care of so that my number one priority in Mexico could be surfing and margarita drinking. As I was driving to my folks’ home from Charlottesville on Tuesday afternoon, I was so distracted with my thoughts and my to-do list that I simply bypassed the exit I needed to take and quite literally doubled my time in the car by two hours.You can imagine the frustration I felt when I realized this, of course. Two hours?! To my parents’ home, a route I’d taken countless times before? After the initial berating I gave myself and the string of tasteful swear words, travel writer Pico Iyer came to me. More specifically, what came to mind was a segment from a recent TED Talk he gave titled, The art of stillness. In it, he discusses our need for quiet, for stillness, how our age of technology and connectivity has distanced us from ourselves and, despite having access to time-saving gadgets and apps, has eaten up more of our time and decreased our productivity.“… as soon as I get to a place of real quiet, I realize that it’s only by going there that I’ll have anything fresh or creative or joyful to share…otherwise I’m just foisting on them my exhaustion, my distractedness, which is no blessing at all.”When I remembered these words and his point about finding quiet, I quit questioning my decision to go to Mexico. I quit feeling guilty about leaving during a time that felt, quite frankly, inconvenient. Yes, there were many projects coming down the pipe at work, many of which I would be at the helm for. But there comes a point when you simply need to own your time on this earth, step away from your work, your family, your friends, your life, and just be still.Though Pico’s point in his TED Talk is that we don’t necessarily need a vacation to vacate, that’s precisely what I’m doing. My goal here in Mexico is to find that stillness, rejuvenate the passion I have for my work and my life, and bring that energy 110% to 2015._MG_0504So for now, it’s hasta luego my friends. I’m sitting here in a little holed away surf town on the west coast of Mexico with the thunder of waves crashing along the beach in the distance, feeling very much at ease about life and more importantly, inspired to get outside and explore.Whether it’s a weekend day hike, an afternoon ride, or a few minutes of meditation in the morning, you, too, should find that stillness and own your time. There’s no excuse not to.last_img read more

River Therapy

first_imgI was melting.Were it not for the late afternoon breeze, I was sure I’d dissolve into a puddle of my own sweat right there on the side of the road. I could almost hear the rubber on the bottoms of my flip flops sizzling against the asphalt. Heat rose in waves from the blacktop, or was I hallucinating from dehydration?Maybe both.Where did Spring go, I thought as I inflated my Hala stand up paddleboard.My sunglasses slid down my nose. Streaks of sunscreen stung my eyes. In the distance, I could hear the water lapping along the shoreline, taunting me as I cooked in the sun.When the board was inflated, I practically ran to the river’s edge. The SUP slapped the surface of the water. I leaped from the banks, stumbling forward and nearly smacking myself in the eye with a t-grip. After a few wobbly strokes, I cruised out into the current and found my rhythm — stroke, stroke, crossbow stroke, stroke, stroke, crossbow stroke, switch.Soon, the roar of traffic along county road 676 eased into the breeze. It was quiet, save for the slurp of water filling in behind my blade and the chatter of birds in the trees. A blue heron lifted off from a branch above me and gracefully sailed across the reservoir.I stopped paddling and closed my eyes, feeling the wind gently push me along. I took a deep breath.Three words came to mind: this is home.Of course, it’s not really home. I don’t consider Charlottesville, Va., and certainly not the South Fork of the Rivanna River reservoir (where I was currently paddling), home. Even the house where I grew up doesn’t feel like home. It’s where my parents live, it’s in my hometown, but it’s not home.No. After a year of living on the road, I’ve come to realize that home is where the heart is, which is why those three words came to mind as I floated along the still waters of the reservoir.This is home._MG_7708For all of my life, water has brought me peace.As a child, I wandered the 400 acres of pastures and woodlands that surrounded our one-story farmhouse. The property, which was a fully operating thoroughbred racehorse farm at the time, was home to a pond that once provided water to the houses and barns. It now sits dry and empty, like a colossal crater leftover from a meteor. Even as a kid it was never entirely full. Truth be told, it was more of a big mud puddle that sat where a pond once was, but to my youthful imagination, it was a vast sea filled with mythological creatures. I’d go and sit by the pond for hours, catching tadpoles and sinking up to my knees in rich red mud. Sometimes I’d wait in hiding for the farm’s foxes and deer to come to the pond for a drink, imagining that I could talk to them, and they to me.We eventually moved away from the farm, but not away from water altogether.The Shenandoah River was just a few minutes from our new house, and as I grew older, I’d often take the gravel road that paralleled the river on my way to school. I pulled off at the same bend in the road every day just to sit by the river, listening to the gurgle of water tumbling over rock. On weekends, my girlfriends and I would grab our inner tubes and float downstream, tanning and gossiping._MG_7764 Trail Days-33 Trail Days-38In college, the South Fork of the Holston River became my new sanctuary. Where bodies of water in the past had brought me peace and stillness, the class II-III rapids on the South Fork gave me something different — challenge. It was here that I learned to navigate whitewater and hone my kayaking skills. I swam through its benign rapids more often that I care to admit, but it was in that challenge of learning to kayak that I found a different kind of peace. It was one more of acceptance, both for who I was and who I strived to be. The river taught me patience, humility. It taught me that I was stronger than I had lent myself to believe for the past then-19 years.From there, the New River Gorge pushed me even further. I was no longer surrounded by the close-knit family of paddlers I’d amassed in southwestern Virginia. I was on my own, a small fish in a relatively big sea of talented raft guides and class V kayakers. I paddled solo, or “soul boated,” for my first time ever on the New River Gorge. I was scared shitless, but it made me a better boater and a more confident person all-around.My relationship with water has only continued to blossom over the years. From the Upper Yough to the Russell Fork Gorge, I’ve learned that rivers have a lot to teach, if one will simply stop and listen. My love of water has since transcended from a ‘want’ to a ‘need.’That’s why I call it river therapy, because it’s here, on the water, where I feel at home. Whether lake or creek or big volume river, my heart is where the river flows, even if it flows nowhere at all.###Where is home for you? Leave a comment below! I’d love to know where you find peace and beauty and, sometimes, a big ol’ slice of humble pie.last_img read more

10 Best Blue Ridge Byways for Fall Leaf Peeping

first_imgTake the scenic route on your next leaf peeping adventure with these 10 iconic drives and roadside hikes.Blue Ridge ParkwayVirginia—North CarolinaThe Drive: Weaving for 470 miles from Virginia to North Carolina, the Blue Ridge Parkway has consistently ranked among the top five most popular national park units for its accessibility, historical significance, and of course, those classic Blue Ridge views. The parkway is like a traveling timeline. Visitors can glimpse the life of an 1800s homesteader in the morning and sip on locally made wine from state-of-the-art vineyards all in a day. Consider the changes in elevation when on the hunt for fall colors. Peak foliage hits a lot later at 649 feet along the banks of Virginia’s James River than at 6,047 feet atop North Carolina’s Richland Balsam.The Hike: For a moderate hike with outstanding views, head to Flat Top Mountain, the tallest of three peaks that form the Peaks of Otter. The parking area is located at milepost 83.5. Follow the Flat Top Trail into the forest, where the gradient is mellow and fast. Don’t be fooled—the summit trail climbs 1,900 feet over the course of 2.6 miles, making those tight switchbacks feel punishingly endless. Stick with it for picnic-perfect boulders and views from 4,001 feet of the Piedmont Valley.The Linn Cove Viaduct snakes around the slopes of Grandfather Mountain, N.C. —Photo by Tommy White.Skyline DriveVirginiaThe Drive: This 105-mile paved drive traverses the spine of the Blue Ridge as it passes through Shenandoah National Park. Nearly every bend in the road here is bursting with life. The park and its backbone byway are home to 1,600 species of trees and plants, over 90 streams, and 60 peaks above 3,000 feet in elevation. With 75 overlooks stacked along the drive (that’s almost one overlook for every mile-and-a-half), you might get so caught up in the sightseeing you never make it to the trailhead.The Hike: Short and ever so sweet, the Bearfence Mountain Trail has it all—rock scrambles, tough terrain, and front row seats to the best view in the park. Totaling 1.2 miles round-trip, this is the perfect excuse to get out and stretch your legs. Head to milepost 56.5 to begin your trek. At one point, the rocks atop Bearfence were volcanic lava, but millions of years of exposure have morphed them into greenstone.Highland Scenic HighwayWest VirginiaThe Drive: Nothing brings out the vibrant reds and oranges of autumn like the stark evergreen of spruce trees. Driving along the tree-studded, 43-mile Highland Scenic Highway feels like a northeastern road trip, both in scenery and in temperatures. Meandering along the Allegheny Highlands above 4,000 feet, the drive cuts right through the heart of the Monongahela National Forest and alongside the Cranberry Wilderness for 22 miles. The weather here is notoriously stormy, so don’t be disappointed if the view is socked in—the moody fog just adds to the Mon’s mystique.The Hike: For a short day hike, explore the Black Mountain Trail, which connects both the Williams River Valley and Big Spruce Overlooks. The 2.4-mile trail weaves in and out through a rhododendron-choked forest of birch, beech, and red spruce before arriving at a boardwalk and interpretive sign about a devastating wildfire that hit here in the 1930s. For an overnight backpacking trip, and a lesson in humility, head into the Cranberry Wilderness via the North/South Trail to Hell For Certain Branch. You might feel like hell once you slog your way to this creek, but the dreamy campsites there are like stepping through Heaven’s gates.Laurel Highlands Scenic BywayPennsylvaniaThe Drive: Beginning just north of Johnstown, Penn., and traveling for 68 miles southwest to the Pennsylvania–West Virginia border, this backroads cruise will change everything you ever thought about the Keystone State. The byway links together some of southwestern Pennsylvania’s most cherished public lands like Roaring Run Natural Area, Bear Run Nature Reserve, and Ohiopyle State Park.The Hike: Photographers, bring the camera for this one. The Meadow Run Trail is only three miles in length, so you won’t be far from the car, but the roaring Cucumber Falls will make you feel miles from the nearest anything. Get up early, or stay out late, to catch the falls in all of its golden hour glory. If the water levels are up, keep a lookout for kayakers paddling the rowdy section of the Meadow to its confluence with the Lower Youghiogheny.[nextpage title=”Read on!”]Red River Gorge Scenic BywayKentuckyThe Drive: Travel through the land of pioneer Daniel Boone on this 46-mile drive. Beginning in Stanton, Ky., drivers will arrive first at the Nada Tunnel, a 900-foot passageway used to transport logs by rail in the early 1900s. Now considered the gateway to the Red River Gorge, this tunnel is only wide enough for one car to pass, so take extra caution when driving through. From here, the byway continues alongside sandstone rock formations and the lazy Red River, a designated wild and scenic river, before ending in Zacharia.The Hike: The Red River Gorge itself is estimated to have over 500 miles of hiking trails, not to mention the nearly 2,000 rock climbing routes hidden among its endless sandstone cliffs and limestone rock faces. Hikers can still get a taste for the unique geology here without roping up. The Sand Gap Trail begins and ends in the Natural Bridge State Resort Park near the end of the byway. At 7.5 miles, this challenging loop, which utilizes part of the Sheltowee Trace National Recreation Trail, will take the better part of a day, but is well worth the hard-earned solitude and access to the 78-foot long Natural Bridge.Roan Mountain Tennessee—North CarolinaThe Drive: Begin on either side of the state line. In North Carolina, take NC Highway 261. In Tennessee, follow TN State Route 143 to the entrance of Roan Mountain State Park. The drive itself climbs high into the Roan Highlands, crossing Carver’s Gap at 5,500 feet. Even in the dead of summer, visitors to Roan Mountain should definitely bring a jacket, as the higher elevations can be upwards of 20 degrees cooler than your starting destinations. This is one of the few mountain passes that is maintained year-round, so you can still hit the road if the temperature drops below freezing or there’s an unseasonably early snowstorm.The Hike: Roan Mountain is revered for its mountain vistas and treeless balds. Experience both by beginning at the Carvers Gap trailhead near the North Carolina–Tennessee state line and taking the Appalachian Trail north. Veer off of the white blazes onto the spur Grassy Ridge Bald Trail to climb up and over a total of three mountain balds. Soak in the distant mountain views of Grandfather Mountain and Mount Mitchell in all of their autumn majesty before heading back to the car for a 4.7-mile out-and-back hike.Indian Lakes Scenic BywayNorth CarolinaThe Drive: Through sprawling farms and quaint art districts, unspoiled wilderness and mountain lakes, the Indian Lakes Scenic Byway takes visitors on a 60-mile tour of western North Carolina’s natural splendor. This two-for-one route connects both the Cherohala Skyway and the Nantahala Byway. Though it can easily be driven in a day, with multisport adventure pitstops like the Nantahala Outdoor Center, Fontana Lake, and Santeelah Lake, what’s the hurry?The Hike: Hike beneath the ancient boughs of the region’s few remaining old-growth trees at Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest. If you’re starting from Almond, N.C., this pristine chunk virgin forest is located around mile 41.5 off of the Indian Lakes Scenic Byway near Santeetlah Lake. An easy two-mile hike gets you into the heart of Joyce Kilmer, with the upper Poplar Cove Loop sporting the most impressive trees. Many trees here are over 400 years old and skyrocket more than 100 feet in the air.Mount Mitchell Scenic BywayNorth CarolinaThe Drive: Take exit 9 off of I-26W to begin your journey. Short of a few quiet mountain towns, this route is nothing but you and the open road set against a backdrop of soaring ridgelines and dense canopy. For 52 miles, this western North Carolina drive climbs up to Mount Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi at 6,683 feet, by way of N.C. 80 and the Blue Ridge Parkway. Start out with a full tank, as the fueling options are few and far between once you start ascending.The Hike: A short hike en route to the summit is Roaring Fork Creek Falls. It’s only a half-mile to the base of this 100-foot cascading beauty, so there’s no excuse to pass it by. The dense canopy above the falls is pure magic when the colors are peak, so don’t get distracted solely by the allure of mountain landscapes. While you can and should drive to the summit of Mount Mitchell, you’ll never truly know how rugged the terrain is without walking it yourself. The 5.5-mile summit trail begins just past the parkway and climbs a grueling 3,500 feet to the top. A shorter option is the Deep Gap Trail, which is only two miles round-trip and begins and ends at the summit of Mount Mitchell.Cherokee Foothills National Scenic BywaySouth CarolinaThe Drive: Once used by the resident Cherokee Indians and early fur traders of centuries past, this 130-mile mostly country roads route is a Sunday driver’s dream. Riding along the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Highway 11 takes drivers past some of the Upstate’s gems like Lake Jocassee, Table Rock, Keowee-Toxawa, and Lake Hartwell State Parks. Don’t bypass the Table Rock entrance off of 11 without taking a shot of the granite monolith’s mirror reflection in Carrick Creek. No matter the season, the view here feels like a scene plucked from the Rockies, not the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains.Photo by Tommy White.The Hike: The hike to Table Rock’s summit is a classic and extremely popular on the weekends for the wide-open mountainscape at the top. But what’s even more appealing about this hike is the trail itself. Chugging for 2,000 feet over the course of 3.6 miles, the path initially curls through a hardwood forest littered with boulders, eventually morphing into dense stands of pine and hemlock. Avoid the crowds by coming when the weather looks iffy or early on a weekday. Having that formidable rock face to yourself is a powerful experience.Russell-Brasstown National Scenic HighwayGeorgiaThe Drive: Journey into the heart of the Chattahoochee National Forest, past the Bavarian modeled town of Helen, and up to Georgia’s highest point along this 40.6-mile north Georgia drive. The underrated Southern Appalachians here are magnificent in the height of fall, and driving along the byway you’ll have plenty of views of the mountains and piedmont alike.The Hike: Park at the Tesnatee Gap Trailhead off of the Richard B. Russell Scenic Highway and head south on the Appalachian Trail. Immediately from the parking lot, the trail begins to ascend, switchbacking and becoming increasingly rocky for the next three-quarters of a mile. Though steep, the hike is short, and in just under a mile, you’ll arrive at the summit of Cowrock Mountain. Compared to Amicalola and Blood Mountain to the south, Cowrock as a destination is often overlooked but the views here are quintessential Appalachian. Continue for another half-mile past the official summit for prime sunset seats.last_img read more

Uncharted Waters: Offshore Drilling Along the Eastern Seaboard

first_imgIn January Secretary Ryan Zinke of the United States Department of Interior announced a proposal that would open over 90 percent of Outer Continental Shelf for offshore drilling. The proposal is part of the National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2019-2024.According to a press release issued by the U.S. Department of Interior, the Draft Proposed Program includes “47 potential lease sales in 25 of the 26 planning areas,” nine of which are located in the Atlantic Region. This gives energy companies access to leases off the coast of California as well as over a billion acres along the Eastern Seaboard and the Arctic.Although this proposal is only the beginning of what could be an 18-month process in developing a definitive National OCS Program, citizens and leaders across the Southeast  are outraged.Immediately after the Zinke’s announcement, Governor Rick Scott of Florida expressed opposition to the proposal as tourism was hit hard after the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion in 2010. As a result, Florida was removed from the proposal.On Twitter, Zinke wrote, “I support the governor’s position that Florida is unique and its coasts are heavily reliant on tourism as an economic driver.”On March 5, 227 members of the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators signed a letter in opposition to the proposal that would be sent to Zinke. The signatures represent legislators from 17 coastal states.But politicians are not the only ones that have expressed stiff resistance to the plan. Coastal communities are concerned about their health and their economies. In 2015, a report published by Oceana found that offshore drilling could put nearly 1.4 million jobs at risk.The National OCS Program would also reverse President Barack Obama’s permanent ban on offshore drilling in the Arctic and Eastern Seaboard and upend efforts to protect and preserve our planet’s ocean ecosystems.Despite severe opposition from the governors of California, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina, Washington, Virginia and Oregon, Florida is still the only state that remains exempt from the plan.last_img read more