What It’s Like to Climb the World’s Second-Tallest Mountain


*Last Modified: June 5th, 2014
aconcagua peak[Editor's note: When CEO Zbigniew Barwicz climbed Mt. Aconcagua for charity last month, we blogged about some of his adventures. In this excerpt of a longer article originally published in Chatelaine Magazine, he tells more of the story to Sarah Treleaven.]Last

Last month, Zbig Barwicz climbed Argentina’s Aconcagua mountain to help raise funds for the David Suzuki Foundation. His amazing adventures (and incredible pictures!) are chronicled in his blog, Climb for DSF. Here, Barwicz explains what it’s really like to climb one of the world’s highest mountains.

I climbed Aconcagua — the highest mountain outside of the Himalayas and one of the Seven Summits. It’s close to 23,000 feet and I achieved it in a guided expedition over 20 days. I went with the Alpine Ascent International group and our guide had climbed Mount Everest twice. We also had a sherpa from Nepal. There were 10 climbers from Canada, the United States and Australia. It can be challenging to share a tent with two or three people you don’t know —  none of whom can take a shower for three weeks. You have to work together to build the camp and get things done. It can be pretty intense, but we didn’t have any major drama.

Every day is different. It took three days just to walk to the mountain and get to base camp. You’re drinking four or five litres of water a day and eating at least 3,000 calories. You have to be very disciplined about eating and drinking every hour Packing up or unpacking camp takes longer and longer the higher you get because the altitude makes you do everything slower….

Read the rest at Chatelaine Magazine.

What are the Top 10 Solar Metro Areas in the U.S.?


*Last Modified: June 5th, 2014
solar cities mapBy Kristine Wong, originally published on our sister site, SolarEnergy.net.

With a solar system installed every four minutes in the U.S., keeping track of the bright spots on solar’s local landscape can be a tough job.

We wanted to know the answer to a simple (or simple-seeming) question: What are the hottest cities for solar in the U.S.? The first thing we found is that we were asking the wrong question — rather than individual cities, the metric we found is the installed solar capacity per capita of metropolitan areas (using cities as a unit is considered to be problematic, since large installations located near individual cities can skew the data). We were also curious to know what common factors contributed to solar’s success, and what were the individual standout factors contributing to just one metro area alone?

Thankfully, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the federal government’s innovation center for renewable energy research, keeps a tally of just the data we were looking for. It’s accessible to the public on its Open PV Database.

So who’s winning the solar horse race? The table below spells it out. (Note: for clarity’s sake, we truncated the names of the Metropolitan Statistical Areas in the list below; we hope you get the gist of where we’re talking about…)


Rank Top 15 Solar Metro Areas by Installed Solar Capacity per Capita* Watts per capita
1 Fresno, Calif. 182.92
2 Phoenix-Mesa, Ariz. 84.76
3 Las Vegas, Nev. 77.62
4 Sacramento-Yolo, Calif. 76.27
5 San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose, Calif. 62.99
6 San Diego, Calif. 51.34
7 Philadelphia, Penn., Wilmington, Del., Atlantic City, N.J. 51.11
8 New York City, Long Island, Northern New Jersey 35.96
9 Los Angeles-Riverside-Orange County, Calif. 35.49
10 San Antonio, Texas 35.4

Data source: NREL Open PV Project

Ken Johnson, a spokesperson for the Solar Energy Industries Association in Washington, D.C., noted that the estimates should be considered minimums for each metro area, since the NREL database only captures about two-thirds of the total installations.

Fresno, Calif.: the solar capital of the U.S.?

Johnson set the record straight. The more than twofold difference between No. 1 Fresno and No. 2 Phoenix, he said, had to do more with the peculiarities of the data, the size of the projects, and the Fresno area’s small population.

Since the area has more open space suitable for large-scale projects compared to others on the list, he said, many major solar projects (greater than 1 MW) have been installed in the Fresno metro area.

“When this is combined with Fresno’s relatively small population (just over a million in the metro area — roughly a quarter of the size of the Phoenix metro area), strong solar resources, proximity to thriving and mature solar economies (in San Francisco and Los Angeles), and strong state policy, it stands to reason that Fresno would be near the top of this list,” Johnson said.

Standout factors among the rest of the top 5

“Phoenix, Las Vegas and Sacramento to a lesser extent are situated near large swaths of open desert land, which tend to be prime locations for utility-scale solar projects,” Johnson said. “Northern California’s metro areas are ranked highly due to their strong distributed generation markets originating from strong state solar policies and solid solar resources.”

High local electricity costs also contributed to these standings, he added.

“San Francisco’s presence is driven primarily by its role as the headquarters for many of the country’s top players in the solar market,” he said. “Similarly, Phoenix plays a large role in the solar industry and sees much in the way of competition among companies.”

Residential solar

Though NREL’s installed capacity data does not distinguish between residential and non-residential installations, Johnson said that leaders for distributed generation solar are similar to the overall rankings.

With California as the runaway leader, the New York, Boston and Philadelphia metro areas are also leaders in installed distributed generation capacity — though “perhaps not in distributed generation capacity per capita,” Johnson said. “These areas have high electricity prices, fairly established markets (at least in New Jersey) and strong commitments to solar growth by state governments in Massachusetts, New York, and occasionally, New Jersey.”

Solar’s rising stars

Boston (currently ranked as the no. 8 by installed capacity per capita among major metropolitan areas) will grow, as a result of strong policy support in Massachusetts and the amount of companies moving into the area, Johnson predicted.

Due to its surging small utility market (1-5 MW), Johnson said he also likes North Carolina’s chances for increased installation capacity per capita.

“The Washington, D.C., area might be a place to watch as well — especially if proposed policy changes in Virginia come to fruition,” Johnson said.

Small-Scale Solar Has a Big Role to Play in the U.S. Energy Revolution


*Last Modified: June 4th, 2014
solar panelsFor all the talk in recent years about Germany’s Energiewende — the Teutonic moniker for that country’s bold bid to replace its aging nuclear reactor fleet with renewables and efficiency — America is in the midst of its own energy revolution, finds a new report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

“A revolution is transforming how the U.S. produces, delivers, and consumes energy. The mix of supply is changing rapidly, with low-carbon sources gaining share, while consumption is declining, despite overall economic growth,” according to the 2014 Sustainable Energy in America Factbook, commissioned by The Business Council for Sustainable Energy and released this week.

The report highlights the current big trends in energy efficiency, transportation and electricity generation and concludes that these have combined to put U.S. carbon-dioxide emissions “on a long-term downward trajectory.”

Among the key findings are that solar power’s contribution to the nation’s electricity portfolio is growing quickly and that small-scale solar electric systems have only just begun to unleash their “disruptive potential” upon the business-as-usual utility segment.

Fueled by falling prices for photovoltaic (PV) panels and solar-generated electricity, Bloomberg NEF forecasts that the record year for U.S. PV capacity additions in 2013 — including approximately 2,000 megawatts from centralized PV power plants and another some 2,000 megawatts from small-scale, distributed solar plants and rooftop systems — will repeat in record fashion in 2014.

“Prices of solar modules have declined by 99 percent since 1976 and by about 80 percent since 2008,” according to the data-rich report, which says that all-time-low solar electricity prices now have plummeted below 7 cents per kilowatt-hour for large-scale PV and helped to rally billions of dollars in investment for third-party-financed small-scale solar installations. Third-party financers, according to the report, raised $6.7 billion between 2008 and 2013 to build and lease small-scale solar systems — sized 1 MW in capacity and below — at U.S. homes and businesses.

Thanks in part to this expansion of innovative financing solutions that overcome the upfront cost barrier for many homeowners and business owners, “distributed generation emerged as a transformative phenomenon — if not yet in substance, then as a foreshadower of what’s to come,” said Bloomberg NEF.

Even though the vast majority of the country’s electricity continues to come from large-scale, centralized power plants, “the rise of distributed generation is ushering into the U.S. power industry new players and new business models, and testing the durability of old ones,” assessed the report, adding, “What lies ahead when it comes to distributed generation is more important than the current situation.”

In reference to the recent and ongoing disputes over net energy metering services for solar-powered utility customers in states like Arizona, California, Colorado and Hawaii, the report said that the “intense regulatory battles that played out across the country in 2013 over the relative costs and benefits of distributed PV” are a testament to how serious of a threat that small-scale solar has become.

Solar panel photo CC-licensed by Flickr user Chandra Marsono.

Colorado Gives the Public a Say on Net Metering, and You Can Help


colorado solar[Editor's note: This is a guest post from Annie Lappé of Vote Solar; it originally appeared on the Vote Solar blog and is reprinted with permission.]

Thanks to a tremendous outpouring of public solar support, yesterday the Colorado’s Public Utility Commission agreed to pull Xcel’s attacks on net metering out of the utility’s Renewable Energy Standard compliance plan and conduct a new, separate process to take a good look at this critically important solar program.

Net metering gives solar customers full retail credit on their energy bills for the excess power they contribute to the grid for the utility to resell nearby. Xcel issued a proposal to weaken the popular solar program as part of its 2014 Renewable Energy Standard Compliance Plan docket (Docket No. 13A-0836E). Today’s PUC decision removes all issues related to net metering to a new docket that will allow a more thorough discussion of the value and design of Colorado’s net metering program.

See what Colorado stakeholders – from veterans and the faith community to breweries and environmental groups – had to say in support of the decision here.

This is good progress, but the fight isn’t over. Xcel is already making moves to make sure they hold all the cards in this new process. Vote Solar will be working hard to counter their influence, and to make sure that the process established by the PUC is fair, open and transparent.

Specifically we are asking the PUC to consider the the following five recommendations in establishing and overseeing a process to evaluate net metering:

  1. Establish an informal workshop process instead of a litigated docket process. This is because in a litigated docket the parties are hamstrung by the discovery process, and cannot engage in a meaningful back and forth throughout the process.
  2. Engage the services of an independent facilitator with expertise in the area of renewable resources, and in particular distributed solar resources, to promote a collaborative dialogue and facilitate the sharing of information.
  3. Adopt the benefit/cost list in the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) ELab Report as a comprehensive list of costs/benefits that should be considered. Further we believe the Interstate Renewable Energy Council’s (IREC) A REGULATOR’S GUIDEBOOK: Calculating the Benefits and Costs of Distributed Solar Generation provides a great framework for calculating the list of costs and benefits presented by RMI.
  4. Focus on generator exports, as opposed to generation used onsite, as a basis for determining the cost and/or benefits of net metering.
  5. Clearly identify the intended outcomes of the process at the outset, e.g., how the results will be used. In this last regard, we recommend that a new docket begin with an informal meeting to discuss the goals of the PUC and the stakeholders.

Yesterday, when the Commissioners were discussing the scope and process for the investigation they specifically noted how interested they are in hearing from the public on this issue. Let’s not disappoint them.

If you live in Colorado, it’s more important than ever that you speak up for solar in person at next week’s Public Hearing:

RSVP & Details Here.

  • WHEN: February 3 from 4:30 p.m. until no later than 7:30 p.m.
  • WHERE: Public Utilities Commission Hearing Room, 1560 Broadway, Suite 250 Denver, Colorado.
  • WHAT: Come and speak out in support of Colorado’s net metering policy. Please thank the PUC and the Colorado Energy Office for their leadership thus far – and let them know that you won’t stand for anti-solar, anti-consumer shenanigans in the interest of protecting utility profits.

And if you can’t make it in person, we’ve made it easy for you to send in a comment through the Commission’s website. Click here to send an email.

Rooftop solar delivers tremendous ratepayer and societal benefits to Colorado. And our mission is to make sure the PUC considers this full range of benefits as part of their deeper investigation into net metering. We will keep you posted!

Summiting for Suzuki: Zbig Finishes Mt. Aconcagua Climb


*Last Modified: June 4th, 2014
Although the time flew for us down here closer to sea level, the journey of a lifetime has wrapped up for our CEO, Zbigniew Barwicz, as he summited and then descended Mt. Aconcagua, the world’s second-tallest peak at 22,841 feet, as a fundraiser for for the David Suzuki Foundation, one of Canada’s most respected environmental groups.

Zbig has filed regular posts and photos from the mountain on ClimbForDSF.com, and although the posts got shorter as the climb and the incredible cold took its toll on Zbig and his equipment, check out this photo from Aconcagua:

aconcagua peakAnd here’s one of Zbig himself at the summit. He writes: ” I felt on top of the world being on top of the world … check out my scarf – see what I mean about those Aconcagua winds??”

aconcagua windyEarlier on his journey, he wrote about the winds, which reached 60-plus kilometers per hour (37 miles per hour), which is halfway to hurricane-force winds.

On the day he and his team summited the mountain, Zbig wrote: “We got to the summit yesterday at about 2:30 pm. Weather was beautiful all day – conditions were absolutely perfect….

And after 11 hours it was back to Camp 4 for soup and some rice. My devices all died because of the cold.”

Though he had a solar charger for his satellite phone and iPhone, here’s what was probably Zbig’s most important tool:

aconcagua-bootsAs mentioned above, the climb was a fundraiser for the David Suzuki Foundation, and all the funds that Zbig is helping to raise will go to combat climate change. Please consider donating to support the Suzuki Foundation — and if you donate by January 24, our parent company, , will match your donation dollar for dollar!

The View from 17,000 Feet: Aconcagua Climb, Day 11

17000 ft
Andes photo

The Andes, from 17,000 feet.

[Editor's note: This is the latest post from our CEO, Zbigniew Barwicz, who is currently climbing Mt. Aconcagua in Argentina, as a fundraiser for the David Suzuki Foundation. PURE's parent company, , is matching all donations to the climb through January 21.]

After a CRAZY windy night with the Aconcagua classic of 60+km/h winds at -10c. (brrrr!), we made our first carry of equipment to Camp 3 (19,200 feet).

The views here are impressive even without clouds below us. In the mountains clouds are beautiful because they typically create a nice fluffy mattress around 10-12000 feet. But Aconcagua is so dry so you often have no clouds at all this time of year.

We had a great spaghetti dinner and tomorrow will be moving to Camp 3 with all our gear/supplies. After that there will there will be a rest day to try to acclimatize to 20,000feet. Past that point your body really does not operate well at all, so we will make a jump to Camp 4 for a night and try to Summit and come back.

We will need a window of 3 days of decent weather. This week, since Tuesday, nobody has been trying to summit because the winds are crazy up there – 120+ km/h. Apparently weather is supposed to improve in the window when we hope to be ready. We’ll see…

The solar cell is charging the Extreme Monkey battery, which keeps my satellite phone charged (working here as a modem) and also the iridium access point (wifi) and my iPhone. All this for under under $2,000 instead of $25,000 10 years ago! Gotta love technology!

The solar cell is charging the Extreme Monkey battery, which keeps my satellite phone charged (working here as a modem) and also the iridium access point (wifi) and my iPhone. All this for under under $2,000 instead of $25,000 10 years ago! Gotta love technology!


We eat typically hot only for dinner but get hot drinks in the morning too. But during rest days we eat and drink all day to build up and store energy. Here’s an example of a hot lunch – quesadillas with salsa. Mmmm good!

We eat typically hot only for dinner but get hot drinks in the morning too. But during rest days we eat and drink all day to build up and store energy. Here’s an example of a hot lunch – quesadillas with salsa. Mmmm good!


Climbing Aconcagua for the Earth: PURE CEO Takes on the World’s 2nd-Tallest Peak


*Last Modified: June 3rd, 2014

We’re pleased to announce that Zbigniew Barwicz, the CEO of One Block off the Grid, as well as our parent company, , has just kicked off a three-week journey to climb to the top of Mount Aconcagua in Argentina. Aconcagua, at 22,841 feet, is the tallest mountain in the Americas and second only to Mt. Everest for total height. (You can see it way off in the distance there in the photo to the left.)

The climb is a fundraiser for the David Suzuki Foundation, one of Canada’s most respected environmental groups, and the funds that Zbig is helping to raise will go to combat climate change. All donations made by January 24 will be matched dollar for dollar by .

Zbig has already started his journey, and is regularly blogging and tweeting details and pictures.

For instance, on New Year’s day, when his team of climbers was halfway to the first base camp at Plaza Argentina — which is at 13,800 feet of elevation — Zbig wrote:

I’m noticing the air. We did ten miles today and reached 9,300 feet (just under 3000 meters), so oxygen is harder to come by. But also because the air is just so clean and pure. Different stuff than what I breathe in at home.

New Year’s Eve was something else! Three kilometers / almost 2 miles above sea level, far from roads, buildings, offices, and electricity. Surrounded by mountains, mules, climbers and arrieros/mulers. A whole different world. We dined well! The arrieros made us a fabulous feast. This is definitely a New Year’s I won’t forget!

We’ll be following Zbig’s progress closely, and you can read more from him throughout his trek at ClimbForDSF.com. And remember: Every dollar you donate by January 21 will be matched, dollar for dollar, by to make an even bigger contribution to the fight against climate change.

Solar Everywhere, Dec. 2013: Refugee Shelters, Ugly Dresses & More


[Author's note: This post originally appeared on SolarPower.org, one of our sister sites. We publish a Solar Everywhere rundown each month on SolarPower.org.]

It’s the end of the year, and the news cycle slows down significantly as the year winds down. But even though the news is stocked full of year-end lists, there have also been a good number of interesting solar tidbits — enough to flesh out one last Solar Everywhere for 2013. Read on to see how we’re winding the year down with solar in unexpected place.

solar smokersSolar for smokers: Leave it to France to use solar power to help with the problem of smoking bans. Over at the Energy Collective, Boyd Arnold writes about how the French government is helping smokers cope with a ban on indoor smoking: outdoor solar parasols. Boyd writes: “Their solar-powered parasols create heat from the solar power for those under the parasol, and absorbs the cigarettes. This dual function provides a seamless integration of solar innovation while catering to the needs of smokers and government policy.” The parasols also relieve restaurants and bars of the need to rely on gas-powered heaters to keep smokers warm during the winter months.

solar tentSolar tents: In the first — and sillier — of two stories this month about solar-powered habitats, Inhabitat points us to Bang Bang Tents, which are designed to help make festival-going or car-camping a little more electrified. The four-person tents “come equipped with a solar panel that can be slid into a pouch on the exterior of the tent. The 5W solar panel trickle charges a lithium battery bank that has a USB charging adapter and can charge most low voltage devices. Use the solar panel and battery backup to charge cameras, phones, or computers or use them to run speakers and LED lights.” At £249.95 (US$415), they’re not cheap, but would certainly help you stand out at the campground.

solar shelterSolar shelters: We often say that solar is a force for good in the world — but usually that’s because solar homeowers save money and reduce their emissions. IKEA, however, has developed flat-pack, solar-powered shelters for use by refugees. The shelters are everything you’d expect from IKEA: quickly assembled, spacious, cleanly designed — and are also powered by the sun. After six months of lobbying, IKEA has gotten the Lebanese government toapprove a test run of the shelters for refugees fleeing the Syrian civil war and suffering in the intense Lebanese winter.

solar lights 1Solar lights overseas: Putting the sun to work at night is in some ways the holy grail of the solar boom, since it means the development of affordable, reliable battery technologies. One of the earliest places that solar batteries have taken off is in the solar lights market, and two companies this month helped bring light to regions that desperately needed it. First, the Estonian nonprofit Andakidz sent a team of engineers to the Philippines to provide solar lights to villages devastated and left powerless first by an earthquake and then three weeks later by Typhoon Haiyan.

solar lights 2Second, Panasonic has committed to sending 100,000 of the company’s solar lanterns to regions without electricity, and engaged the public and 11 artists from around the world to design paper solar lantern covers as a way of spreading the word about how solar can help meet some of people’s most basic needs.

solar scooter chargerSolar scooters: Solar Tribune offers us a brief glimpse at a new solar-powered charging station for electric scooters, from Current Motor, a Michigan-based scooter manufacturer. The company’s Super Scooters can run for 50 miles on a charge, and are then recharged in about six hours by a solar-powered charging station.

ugly solar outfitSolar clothing: Last but certainly not least, Grist points us to a new fashion item that incorporate solar panels into the design, for better or worse. The new prototype Wearable Solar outfits, are the result of a collaboration between Dutch professor Christiaan Holland, fashion designer Pauline van Dongen and solar expert Gert Jan Jongerden. Grist’s Holly Richmond explains that the outfits are supposed to be able to charge a phone in two hours of wearing, but nails the description: “Unfortunately, the clothes are — how do we say this nicely? — really ugly.”

Here’s looking ahead to a solar-filled 2014 — thanks for reading!

Why We Need Solar: 45 of the Biggest Fossil Fuel Disasters in 2013


*Last Modified: June 9th, 2014
oil spill cleanup[Editor's Note: This article, by Emily Atkin, originally appeared on ThinkProgress, and is reprinted with permission.

While coal, oil, and gas are an integral part of everyday life around the world, 2013 brought a stark reminder of the inherent risk that comes with a fossil-fuel dependent world: With numerous pipeline spills, explosions, derailments, landslides, and the death of 20 coal miners in the U.S. alone.

Despite all this, our addiction to fossil fuels will be a tough habit to break. The federal Energy Information Administration in July projected that fossil fuel use will soar across the world in the come decades. Coal — the dirtiest fossil fuel in terms of carbon emissions — is projected to increase by 2.3 percent in coming years. And in December, the EIA said that global demand for oil would be even higher than it had projected, for both this year and next.

Here’s a look back at some of the fossil fuel disasters that made headlines in 2013, along with several others that went largely unnoticed.


In this photo taken Saturday, July 27, 2013, a cleaning vessel clears the oil after about 50 tons of crude oil that was leak from a pipe spilled into the sea off Rayong province, eastern Thailand.

In this photo taken Saturday, July 27, 2013, a cleaning vessel clears the oil after about 50 tons of crude oil that was leak from a pipe spilled into the sea off Rayong province, eastern Thailand.

CREDIT: AP Photo/The Nation-Atchara


March 29: An ExxonMobil pipeline carrying Canadian Wabasca heavy crude from the Athabasca oil sands ruptures and spills thousands of barrels of oil in Mayflower, Arkansas. The ruptured pipeline gushed 210,000 gallons of heavy Canadian crude into a residential street and forced the evacuation of 22 homes. Exxon was hit with a paltry $2.6 million fine by federal pipeline safety regulators for the incident in November — just 1/3000th of its third quarter profits.

May 20: Underground tar sands leaks start popping up in Alberta, Canada, and do not stop for at least five months. In September the company responsible was ordered to drain a lake so that contamination on the lake’s bottom can be cleaned up. As of September 11, the leaks had spilled more than 403,900 gallons — or about 9,617 barrels — of oily bitumen into the surrounding boreal forest and muskeg, the acidic, marshy soil found in the forest.


July 30: About 50 tons of oil spills into the sea off Rayong province of Thailand from a leak in the pipeline operated by PTT Global Chemical Plc. It was the fourth major oil spill in the country’s history.

August 13: An ethane and propane pipeline belonging to Tesoro Corp. running beneath an Illinois cornfield ruptures and explodes. Residents heard a massive blast and then saw flames shooting 300 feet into the air, visible for 20 miles.

September 29: A North Dakota farmer winds up discovering the largest onshore oil spill in U.S. history, the size of seven football fields. At least 20,600 barrels of oil leaked from a Tesoro Corp-owned pipeline onto the Jensens’ land, and it went unreported to North Dakotans for more than a week. An AP investigation later discovered that nearly 300 oil spills and 750 “oil field incidents” had gone unreported to the public since January 2012.


October 7: An Oil and Natural Gas Corp. pipeline that carries crude from the offshore Mumbai High fields to India ruptures and spills at an onshore facility, but oil winds up flowing into the Arabian sea because of rainfall.

October 9: A natural gas pipeline explodes in northwest Oklahoma, sparking a large fire and prompting evacuations. No injuries or deaths were reported.

October 30: 17,000 gallons of crude oil spill from an eight-inch pipeline owned by Koch Pipeline Company in Texas. The spill impacted a rural area and two livestock ponds near Smithville and was discovered on a routine aerial inspection.

November 14: A Chevron natural gas pipeline explodes in Milford, Texas, causing the town of 700 people to evacuate. The flames could reportedly be seen for miles.

November 22: An oil pipeline explodes in Qingdao, China, killing 62 and setting ocean on fire. The underground pipeline’s explosion opened a hole in the road that swallowed at least one truck, according to Reuters, and oil seeped into utility pipes under Qingdao.

November 29: A 30-inch gas gas pipeline in a rural area of western Missouri ruptures and explodes, sending a 300 foot high fireball into the air.

Coal Mines

February 11 An explosion in a coal mine in northern Russia kills at least 17 miners in a shaft saturated with methane gas. Rescue workers said 23 people had been in the shaft at the time. The blast occurred about 2,500 feet underground.

February 13: Very large landslide hits a colliery in Northern England. No injuries, but Dave Petley, a geology professor at Durham University, said it “may well be the largest and most significant landslide in the UK for a decade or more.”

February 13: A 28-year-old mining machine operator was killed when he was pinned between the tail of the remote controlled continuous mining machine and the coal rib in an underground mine in Illinois. Timothy Chamness had only been a mine machine operator for 6 months when the incident occurred.

February 14: A landslide hits the Phillippines’ largest open coal mining pit, burying at least 13 workers and killing at least 7. The accident was the third to occur in mining sites in the country over the last six months.

February 19: A large rock cliff collapses on top of a coal mine in southern China, burying and killing five people, including two children. An estimated 5,000 cubic metres of rock fell on Yudong village in Kaili, in the country’s Guizhou province.

March 13: A 63-year-old man with 40 years of mining experience was killed underground when he was struck by a large piece of roof rock. The rock that fell was approximately 6 feet long by 5.5 feet wide and about 5 inches thick.

March 29 and April 1: The Babao Coal mine explosions kill 53 people in China. The coal mine company responsible, Tonghua Mining (Group) Co. Ltd., was later found to have concealed the death toll in the incidents, additionally concealing deaths of six workers in five accidents in 2012.


May 11: Illegal mining causes an explosion in a Chinese coal mine that killed 28 and left 18 injured. China orders production suspension at all coal mines in the southwestern province of Sichuan, China’s 16th-biggest coal producing province, after the blast.

July 16: A landslide at a coal mine in Bulgaria claims the lives of two people who were discovered underneath 50 meters of land mass. It was the fourth major landslide in the Oranovo mine in the past eight years.

August 10: Seven people in India are killed after a landslide in a coal mine in the Sundergarh district of Odisha. The incident occurred while people from nearby villages were collecting coal from the “over-burdened” dump yard located near the mining area.

November 23: While working inside a coal mine in Ohio, a 32-year-old man was killed when he was struck by high pressure hydraulic fluid after a valve broke. Ryan Lashley had worked at The Century Mine, which was the site of another near-fatal accident that month.

November 27: A coal mine in northern China’s Shanxi Province is hit with a landslide that buried several excavators and kills two people.

December 4: Gas explodes in a coal mine early in eastern China’s Jiangxi province, killing at least six workers.

Offshore and Onshore Rigs

January 22: A Devon Energy natural gas rig in Utah catches fire, causing evacuations for half a mile radius of the rig. No injuries are reported.


July 7: A hydraulic fracturing operation at a gas well drilling pad in West Virginia explodes and injures seven people, four with potentially life-threatening burns. The explosion occurred while workers were pumping water down a well, part of the hydraulic fracturing process for recovering gas trapped in shale rock. The tanks that recover the water and chemical mixture after they return to the surface are what reportedly exploded.

July 27: BP’s Hercules 265 offshore gas rig in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana explodes, enveloping the rig in a cloud of gas and a thin sheen of gas in the water. After spewing gas for more than a day, the rig finally “bridged over,” meaning small pieces of sediment and sand blocked more gas from escaping.

August 20: A gas rig belonging to the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan exploded in the Caspian sea while workers were carrying out exploratory drilling, when it hit a pocket of gas at unexpectedly high pressure.

August 28: A “well-control incident” at an oil drilling rig in rural south Texas causes an “intense” explosion after workers were drilling horizontally into the Eagle Ford Shale, causing homes to be evacuated. No injuries reported.

Train Derailments

March 27: A Canadian Pacific Railway train derails, spilling 30,000 gallons of tar sands oil in western Minnesota. Reuters called it “the first major spill of the modern North American crude-by-rail transit boom.”

July 6: A unit, 74-car freight train carrying Bakken formation crude oil derails in Lac-Megantic, Canada, causing an incredibly tragic fire and explosion. Forty-two people were pronounced dead, 30 buildings downtown destroyed. Emergency responders describe a “war zone.” 2,000 people evacuated because of toxic fumes, explosions, and fires.


July 18: 24 cars of a 150-car coal train derail in Virginia, spilling more than a thousand tons of coal along the roadside.

October 19: A train carrying crude oil and liquefied petroleum gas derails west of Alberta, Canada, causing an explosion and fire. No injuries were reported. Nine of the derailed cars were carrying liquefied petroleum gas and four carried crude. The crude oil cars were intact and kept away from the fires with no indications of any leaks.

November 8: A 90-car train carrying North Dakota crude derails and explodes in a rural area of western Alabama. Flames spewed into the air on a Friday, only finally dying down by Sunday, in what the Huffington Post called “the most dramatic U.S. accident since the oil-by-rail boom began.”

December 9: 19 cars of a coal train near the Las Vegas Motor Speedway derail, spilling coal onto the ground. The train had four locomotives with 103 cars, each carrying about 75 tons of coal. The train was headed from a mine in Carbon County, Utah, to a utility company in Mojave, California.

Railway cars carrying crude oil in Lac-Megantic, Quebec derail, causing explosions.

Railway cars carrying crude oil in Lac-Megantic, Quebec derail, causing explosions.

CREDIT: AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Paul Chiasson

Power Plants and Refineries

April 4: Federal safety officials eventually make Georgia Power pay $119,000 in penalties after an explosion at one of its coal plants. The blast injured two people and was caused by a buildup of hydrogen and air inside a generator.


April 5: Residents near an ExxonMobil refinery begin to smell “burning tires and oil” after the refinery leaked condensate water that accumulated while the company was flaring gas. Through the leak, ExxonMobil announced that it had released 100 pounds of hydrogen sulfide and 10 pounds of benzene. According to readings at the spill site, the refinery measured 160 parts per million of hydrogen sulfide and 2 parts per million of benzene in the air.

August 8 and 15: 15,000 liters of oil spills into local streams in Cuba, after two separate instances at the Sergio Soto Refinery. The oil spill was the result of a negligent operator who failed to properly secure the residuals trap used to contain the hydrocarbon. While some of the oil was able to be contained, much of it was pushed upstream because of strong rainfall following the spill.

August 28: Approximately 20 gallons of partially refined petroleum from a New Jersey refinery spills into the Delaware River, after a leak in a heat exchanger that is part of the refinery’s crude oil processing unit. The spill was reported two hours after workers discovered it, when they realized it was going into the river.

September 10: An explosion at the Deely 1 coal power unit in Pennsylvania caused cascade housing damage. The explosion happened after coal dust in a silo caught fire.



January 27: A barge carrying 668,000 gallons of light crude oil on the Mississippi River crashed into a railroad bridge. An 80,000 gallon tank on the vessel was damaged, spilling oil into the waterway, which prompted officials to close the river for eight miles in either direction.

September 15: Fuel tanks explode at Virgin Islands gas station, resulting in a huge blast and a fire and causing two injuries. The St. Thomas community of Bovoni was evacuated and traffic was diverted after the explosion.

October 1: An underground fuel reservoir explodes on a Czech Lukoil petrol station on a highway in Prague, killing one person and injuring two.

November 23: Five are hurt after a gas tank near a drilling rig explodes in Wyoming.

December 14: Thousands of gallons of gasoline spill into a harbor in southern Alaska on Saturday after a pump used to funnel fuel into boats is accidentally severed. The 5,500 gallon spill occurred in the small village of the village of Kake, whose residents rely on fish and subsistence to get by.

More Confirmation that Rooftop Solar Makes Your Home Worth More


mossy house solar roof[Editor's Note: This article by Scott Thill, originally appeared on our sister site, SolarEnergy.net.]

It’s always good news when scientific studies confirm common sense. For instance: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has just published a report confirming what earlier studies correctly ascertained years ago: Solar panels can indeed increase the value of our homes. Good night and good luck.

You’ll need it. Despite its stronger portfolio power, nationwide residential solar is underrepresented in the housing industry, while total solar systems don’t add up to anything resembling a respectable percentage of nationwide renewable energy. On the bright side, there’s nowhere to go but up.

That’s not much of a silver lining, considering the numbers. LBNL’s study Exploring California PV Home Premiums found that homes with rooftop solar arrays — the bigger and newer, the better — resold for more than non-solar homes stuck in the past. It also found that homeowners not only made back money they presciently paid for solar arrays, but often tidy profits on top of it.

Mash that encouraging data with the Solar Energy Industries Association’s research on the last few years of record-breaking American solar installations, and you’ve got some good news in the mostly bad news about our failures to properly address climate change.

Of course, none of this is really news to the LBNL or America’s accelerating solar sector, which is nevertheless playing catch-up with Germany and other motivated nations. But it once again confirms there’s little point in hitching the American economy to housing and construction if solar is left out in the cold. If we’re going to burn more oil to build more homes, we sure as hell should put solar panels on them.

Take the 70,245 non-solar homes sold from 2000-2009 analyzed in LBNL’s study: They weren’t able to match up against 1,894 solar homes sold in the same period, which pocketed an additional $5,900 in value for each kilowatt generated. That premium dropped around 9 percent annually as arrays aged, but that’s technology for you. Autocorrects arrive as innovation, efficiency and adoption reach more respectable levels. So as more and more solar homes come online — in California and other states LBNL promises to continue tracking, which includes the current residential solar explosion that was not included in this study — the sector’s renewable value will greater outshine obsolete products and paradigms that were never really worth their weight in emissions or investment. Especially since solar is getting cheaper by the week.

“This report confirms what we have said for a long time now: adding solar to your home actually increases its value,” SEIA spokesperson Ken Johnson explained in an interview. “But it’s also important to remember one other thing: As solar expands, installation costs will continue to come down. Over the past two years alone, the cost of a solar system has dropped by nearly 40 percent, making solar more affordable.”

So yes, the writing is on the walls, and the walls are atop the foundation, and the foundation is solar. If you’re thinking of building or buying a home without panels, proceed to the nearest scientist to have your wallet examined.

Photo Credit: cc licensed by ericvery via Compfight.