Dan Boyce / Inside Energy

The costs of wind and solar power have fallen dramatically in recent years. Still, renewables only account for a fraction of the energy produced in the United States.

That's one of the challenges facing the new director of the National Renewable Energy Lab in Golden, Colorado. Dr. Martin Keller, who took over following the retirement of Dan Arvizu in late 2015, describes NREL's mission -- acting as the nation's premier renewable energy research laboratory -- as one of filling in the gaps in science and technology.

Colorado Wind Energy Gets A Burst Of Good News

Apr 12, 2016

Unlike fossil fuels, wind energy is booming.

Xcel Energy has announced a proposal with Denmark-based Vestas Wind Systems to build a 300 turbine project in eastern Colorado. It would be the state's largest wind farm. The utility isn't releasing further information until the project is formally filed with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission.

Even without firm details on the project, the wind industry is clearly growing.

Luke Runyon / KUNC, Harvest Public Media

Food waste is an expensive problem. The average U.S. family puts upward of $2,000 worth of food in the garbage every year.

What some see as a problem, others see as a business opportunity. A new facility, known as the Heartland Biogas Project, promises to take wasted food from Colorado’s Front Range and turn it into electricity.

Through a technology known as anaerobic digestion, spoiled milk, dented canned goods, old pet food, vats of grease and helpful bacteria combine in massive tanks to generate gas. You’ll find the project on a rural road in Weld County, a stone’s throw from the county’s numerous feedlots, dairy farms, and a short drive from the state’s populous, waste-generating urban core.

Jim Hill / KUNC

Despite efforts by Gov. John Hickenlooper to head off citizen ballot measures limiting hydraulic fracturing, a measure that would do just that is now collecting signatures to get on the ballot.

The petition format for the Colorado Community Rights Amendment, also called Initiative 40, was approved by the Colorado Secretary of State's title board Wednesday.

The Electric Bill Of The Near Future Just Might Use 'Time-Of-Use' Pricing

Mar 17, 2016
Anders B Knudsen / Flickr - Creative Commons

Electricity pricing for your home has been relatively straightforward. The more you use, the more you pay. That simple equation is no longer so simple. Increasingly, the time of day when you use electricity factors into the cost as well. It's called time-of-use pricing, and while it can save money and energy, it's not always popular.

Jim Hill / KUNC

Colorado employment is off to a strong start in 2016. The state added 5,200 payroll jobs in January, and the unemployment rate dipped to 3.2 percent.

"It was 15 years ago that we saw unemployment numbers this low," said Alexandra Hall, Chief Economist for the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.

While those numbers are encouraging, economists are concerned about the impact of sustained low oil prices on jobs in the oil and gas industry.

Greeley officials have approved a plan that will allow 22 oil and gas wells within city limits. The massive project prompted strong opposition from some residents, and hundreds of people turned out for the hearing.

"I don’t think I’ve ever seen more people attend a city council meeting," said Sharon Dunn, business and energy reporter who covered the event for The Greeley Tribune.

Stephanie Paige Ogburn / KUNC

Inside a nondescript warehouse south of I-70 in Denver, Nick Hice opens a door into a large room holding a few hundred cannabis plants. One of the first things you notice about the room: It's bright. Glaring yellow high-pressure sodium light fixtures are strung from the ceiling. The whole place has a feverish glow. Even though it's indoors, Hice and his workers here at Denver Relief typically wear sunglasses when working here.

It's those lights that are the key to growing commercial marijuana successfully.

"It's very important. It's one of the things we talk about the most with these artificial environments," said Hice, an expert grower and operations manager at Denver Relief and a founding partner in its associated cannabis consulting business.

There's a cost that comes with using the same kind of lighting technology used to brighten stadiums and streets: high electric bills. That's why some enterprising businessmen are creating alternatives that might help cannabis growers cut down on their electricity load.

Scott Detrow / StateImpact Pennsylvania

The U.S. oil and gas industry was shocked by the sudden death of Aubrey McClendon. The former CEO of Chesapeake Energy, a major producer now floundering under low oil and gas prices, was an influential executive. His death came just a day after being indicted on bid rigging and price fixing charges.

Chesapeake Energy was a key leader in the U.S. oil and gas boom of the last decade. It was aggressive with new technologies and took big risks leasing a lot of land with oil and gas locked up in tight shale rock formations. These days though, there's a lot of bad news coming from the oilfield. Companies large and small are laying off workers and selling off assets. Even among companies in trouble, there's just something different about Oklahoma-based Chesapeake.

Inside Energy

On a cold night in January 2012, Dustin Bergsing climbed to the top of a storage tank on a well pad in the North Dakotan Bakken oilfield. Bergsing was a well watcher; he measured the oil levels of the tanks.

He was later found dead by a co-worker, slumped on the catwalk.

An autopsy revealed that his blood contained hydrocarbons like benzene, ethane and butane – the same compounds found in natural gas. At that point, few people had heard of oil workers dying, out in the open, from inhaling petroleum gases. Because of Bergsing's case, four years later oilfield hydrocarbon vapor poisoning is a known occupational hazard. One that workers are still being exposed to every day as a routine part of doing their job.