A little more than three years ago, two solar power groups found that out of 130 thousand schools in the United States, only 3,750 were utilizing solar panels to generate electricity. However, since then that number has been continuously rising.
The “Brighter Future” report from the nonprofit organization Generation180 revealed that the number of US schools employing solar power increased to 8,400 at the end of 2021. These “solar schools” make up nearly 10 percent of public K-12 independent charter schools and serve over 6 million students throughout the United States.
Roughly 1,644 megawatts of solar energy have been installed in American schools since 2015. This is a significant milestone, as more and more schools are building new rooftop and ground-based solar arrays, advocating for community solar programs, and producing enough electricity to sell it back to their communities.
California leads the pack in terms of both the number of solar schools and solar capacity. Additional states are making great strides in this area, with Washington state’s solar capacity growing more than eightfold between 2019 and 2021. At the same time, Arkansas, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Virginia at minimum doubled their installed solar capacities.
According to Tish Tablan, the lead author of the report, much of this growth is due to third-party financing models such as power purchase agreements (PPAs). With these types of contracts, developers agree to pay for solar panels and their operation while schools purchase the electric output from them at a set price for an allotted time. This benefits developers because they are able use federal tax credits and receive a stable source income.
The Generation180 report finds that federal Title I Schoolwide Program funding has been crucial for solar expansion beyond affluent school districts. As of 2021, 47 percent of public schools that have solar power are eligible for this type of funding, which implies that roughly 40 percent of their student population comes from low-income households.
At Denver Public Schools in Colorado, PPAs with various solar developers have helped the school district install 9 megawatts of solar capacity at 50 schools. Out of those 50 schools, 21 of them utilize Title I Schoolwide Program. As a result of these efforts, high emissions are down 2175 cars’ worth annually.
Denver Public Schools are using solar arrays to educate students about renewable energy and providing them with early job training for aspiring electrical engineers.
According to Generation180, although strides have been made, there is still a long way to go. Only 10 percent of U.S schools currently use solar panels, which is an abysmal amount considering the rate of climate change and how crucial it is for to find sustainable energy sources. If every school building in the United States switched to solar power, 60 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year would be eliminated. That’s equivalent to getting rid of 16 coal-fired power plants’ worth of climate pollution yearly.
The enactment of additional PPAs could help significantly move things forward, and this footage could especially be relevant in reversing policies that restrict third-party financing options in southern states. Furthermore, last year’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law – as well as this year’s Inflation Reduction Act – both included federal funding (in hundreds of millions of dollars) for grants to upgrade schools’ energy systems and lessen their climate pollution. There is also an expanded tax credit included to help offset the solar and battery storage projects’ costs.
Salton Sea’s Lithium Bonanza: A Boost for Electric Vehicles
In a surprising turn of events, the Salton Sea in California, one of the largest lakes in the state, is making headlines for holding more lithium – a key component in electric vehicle batteries – than previously estimated. This newfound source of “white gold” beneath the lake’s southern end presents a significant opportunity for the electric vehicle industry.
Recent federal analysis, led by researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, has unveiled a hidden treasure beneath the Salton Sea’s surface. Deep in the hot fluids beneath the lake’s southern region lies a reservoir of valuable lithium, a mineral essential for manufacturing electric vehicle batteries. The analysis suggests that a whopping 18 million metric tons of this precious resource could be extracted from the underground pool, separate from the lake’s surface.
Termed as “white gold” due to its crucial role in powering electric vehicles, lithium is in high demand as the world shifts towards sustainable transportation. Alex Prisjatschew, an engineer with the U.S. Department of Energy, which funded the analysis, revealed that this estimate is the first public documentation of the potential lithium bounty at the Salton Sea. The projected 18 million metric tons could translate to approximately 382 million electric vehicle batteries.
The revelation that the Salton Sea holds such a substantial lithium reserve is groundbreaking for the electric vehicle industry. With fewer than 300 million cars and trucks registered in the United States, the potential to produce over 380 million electric vehicle batteries is indeed a game-changer. This discovery brings new hope for meeting the increasing demand for lithium as electric vehicles become more prevalent and critical in the effort to reduce carbon emissions.
The availability of vast lithium resources at the Salton Sea not only promises economic benefits but also contributes to environmental sustainability. As electric vehicles gain prominence in the transportation sector, a reliable and domestic source of lithium is crucial for reducing dependency on foreign markets and ensuring a stable supply chain.
The Salton Sea’s unexpected role as a significant lithium reservoir marks a new chapter in the transition to cleaner and greener transportation. With ongoing advancements in electric vehicle technology, the newfound abundance of lithium provides an optimistic outlook for the industry’s growth. As researchers and companies explore ways to extract and utilize this “white gold,” the Salton Sea could emerge as a key player in shaping the future of sustainable transportation.
Zimbabwean Ranger’s Heroic Effort to Save Unloved Painted Dogs
In the vast wilderness of Zimbabwe, where the African sun paints the landscape with its golden hues, a dedicated ranger named Jealous Mpofu has taken up the noble cause of rescuing and reviving the unloved African painted dogs. These striking and highly social animals, also known as African wild dogs, have faced numerous challenges, causing their population to plummet over the years.
African painted dogs are distinctive creatures, adorned with unique coat patterns that resemble a colorful mosaic. Unfortunately, they have been unjustly overlooked by both conservationists and tourists, contributing to a decline in interest and support for their preservation. Jealous Mpofu, however, has emerged as their champion, defying the misconceptions that have surrounded these animals.
Mpofu recalls the biased opinions of his father’s bosses, who dismissed painted dogs as rough and undesirable creatures. “They said they didn’t kill an animal; they grabbed the flesh. They said they were rough animals,” Mpofu shared, shedding light on the unfounded prejudices that have plagued these beautiful canines.
Conservationists and tourists have shown little interest in painted dogs, leaving them vulnerable to various threats. Poachers, initially targeting antelopes, inadvertently ensnare these dogs in their traps. Cars pose another danger as they unwittingly run over these creatures, contributing to the challenges faced by the painted dog population.
Jealous Mpofu’s journey with painted dogs began in 1997 when he first laid eyes on these fascinating animals. Growing up trekking barefoot to school and working as a casual laborer in Zimbabwe’s national park system, Mpofu left his job when he witnessed the country’s decline. His life took a positive turn when he crossed paths with Peter Blinston, a Briton who founded Painted Dog Conservation after being inspired by a Jane Goodall documentary at the age of eight.
Tragedy struck in 2006 when the alpha male in Hwange’s last painted dog pack was killed, leading to the group’s dispersal. Mpofu and his team played a pivotal role in rescuing the alpha female, bringing her into a rehabilitation enclosure. For six months, Hwange had no painted dogs in the wild, but the team persevered. They released the female and selected an alpha male from the enclosure. Over the years, the female raised as many as 30 puppies, a testament to Mpofu and his team’s dedication.
Peter Blinston credits Mpofu with saving dozens of painted dogs’ lives, recounting instances where he found and rescued dogs ensnared in traps. Last year alone, Mpofu rescued four dogs from one pack entangled together in snares.
In recognition of his extraordinary efforts, Jealous Mpofu has been named Tusk’s Ranger of the Year, an honor bestowed upon him for his quarter-century-long commitment to bringing these unique animals back from the brink of extinction. He will receive the award, along with a grant of £30,000, in London, most likely from Prince William, who played a role in establishing the awards in 2013.
Mpofu, humble and surprised by the news of his award, plans to use the grant to support his family and community. “I share that with painted dogs,” Mpofu emphasized, highlighting his commitment to not only these remarkable animals but also the well-being of those around him.
Painted dogs, known for their cooperative and sharing nature, have found an ally in Jealous Mpofu. Through his unwavering dedication, these once-unloved creatures are getting a second chance at life, and Mpofu’s story serves as an inspiring testament to the impact one individual can have on the survival of a species.
Pūteketek: New Zealand’s Beloved Bird of the Century
In a historic win, Pūteketek, a remarkable bird native to New Zealand, has clinched the prestigious title of Bird of the Century. This victory was not just a triumph for Pūteketek but also a testament to the collective efforts of more than 350,000 people from 195 countries who participated in the annual competition organized by the conservation charity Forest and Bird.
Pūteketek, also known as the New Zealand Falcon, soared to fame with an extraordinary record number of votes in the hotly contested competition. The bird secured a staggering 290,374 votes, capturing about 83% of the total votes. This victory highlights the bird’s popularity and the global appreciation for New Zealand’s unique avian species.
Adding a touch of humor to the competition, American-British comedian John Oliver played a surprising role in boosting Pūteketek’s popularity. Oliver, known for his wit and humor, launched what he jokingly called an “alarmingly aggressive” campaign for the bird. In one of his shows, he expressed his desire for the “biggest landslide in the history of this magnificent competition.” Oliver’s endorsement certainly contributed to the overwhelming support for Pūteketek.
While Pūteketek claimed the top spot, it faced stiff competition from other notable birds. The North Island Brown Kiwi secured the second position with 12,904 votes, and the kea, a unique parrot native to New Zealand, secured the third position with 12,060 votes. The competition showcased the diverse and fascinating birdlife found in New Zealand.
Petrina Duncan, Forest and Bird’s grebe coordinator for its Central Otago Lakes Branch, expressed her enthusiasm about Pūteketek’s win. She mentioned, “It’s great to have a successful bird as an ambassador for all New Zealand birds to show that even threatened species can bounce back if we give them a hand.” This sentiment reflects the importance of recognizing and celebrating the efforts put into conservation and protecting New Zealand’s unique bird species.
Australian Army Vets Find New Purpose in Farming
A remarkable group of former Australian soldiers has embarked on a mission to help their fellow veterans discover a fresh sense of purpose after their military service. The path to civilian life can often be challenging for those who’ve served, as they need to reinvent themselves and find a new identity. A group of ex-army veterans, however, is finding solace and meaning in farming, offering a nurturing environment for healing and growth.
“When you leave the army, you have to leave your image at the same time and develop a new image,” expressed army veteran Angelo Leonardi. “Some of us joined when we were really young, so you can be a young adult, 25 to 30 years old, and lose that image that you built. You have to reintroduce yourself to the world, which can be really hard.”
For Angelo Leonardi, the transition to civilian life has been made easier by following his true calling in farming. “My family had a deep farming history in south-east Queensland and also in north Queensland, in horticulture,” he shared. “Post-army, there are not a lot of options for us in the career space.”
Angelo Leonardi, along with two others, pooled their resources to purchase their first farm, Cherry Creek Estates near Blackbutt. This farm boasts 300 hectares of meticulously managed avocado orchards, a packing shed, and an oil processing plant. Angelo’s vision and passion have been instrumental in making this venture a reality.
His fellow veterans, Sam Salvatore and Mr. Dennis, bring their unique strengths to the farm. Mr. Dennis is the practical and detail-oriented member, while Sam Salvatore, the workhorse, is known for getting things done. Together, they embarked on their farming journey, starting with approximately 2,000 avocado trees in their first year.
In their early days, the trio managed everything themselves, balancing farming with other commitments. Their military background proved valuable as they could call on their fellow soldiers for assistance when needed.
“We can send the SOS out to all the guys, and they come running just like when we were in the army,” Salvatore said. “So it’s awesome to have the support in those critical times.”
The farm’s tranquil and serene environment serves as a sanctuary for many, benefiting their mental well-being. It offers them a peaceful space to relax and work, providing an ideal balance for their lives. “Everyone likes to come out to the farm – it’s peaceful, it’s quiet, and it helps most people with their mental state as well,” Salvatore said.
The team has big plans for Cherry Creek Estate, with aspirations to have 60,000 avocado trees planted by 2030. Beyond the crop yield, the farm embodies the values of mateship, camaraderie, and teamwork that veterans cherish. According to Angelo Leonardi, “You don’t have to put the uniform on to still display the values.”
For Salvatore Leonardi, the civilian member of the team, the farm represents an opportunity to create something valuable to pass on to future generations. “I would like to have something to give to my kids,” he said. In essence, this endeavor reflects the enduring Australian dream – a legacy built on hard work and shared values.
Rewilding in the United Kingdom: Boosting Wildlife and Community Engagement
In the United Kingdom, a remarkable conservation effort is underway, known as rewilding. Rewilding involves restoring natural habitats and ecosystems to support wildlife and enrich the environment. This approach has not only helped endangered species like the dormice but also created a positive impact on humans and their communities.
This success story extends to various other creatures such as birds, dormice, and butterflies, all of which are experiencing population improvements.
The UK is home to many endangered species, with one in six facing the threat of extinction. Fortunately, the country is witnessing a surge in local wildlife restoration projects. Last year, 3.22% of UK land was well protected and managed to preserve its rich biodiversity.
One noteworthy project, “Back on the Map,” located in the picturesque Lake District, has played a significant role in restoring natural habitats. This project has led to the breeding of 69 rodents, including many juvenile dormice. Dormice, small and endearing rodents, are crucial for maintaining the ecological balance.
A heartwarming success story has unfolded along the coast, where the population of small blue butterflies has increased. What makes this project unique is the involvement of local primary school students who released these delicate creatures back into their natural habitat, inspiring the next generation of wildlife enthusiasts.
Rewilding projects are continually gaining momentum throughout the UK. These projects typically involve activities like tree planting, sowing wildflowers, and releasing animals into their natural habitats. The results are a testament to the effectiveness of rewilding efforts, with wildlife populations thriving and ecosystems on the path to recovery.
As we face the pressing issue of one in six species being at risk of extinction, rewilding projects offer a glimmer of hope. By restoring natural habitats and actively engaging communities, they contribute to the protection of endangered species and the overall enhancement of the environment.
Across the United Kingdom, rewilding is becoming an increasingly vibrant trend, offering hope for a more diverse and sustainable natural landscape in the years to come.
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