Month: December 2020

Africa Poised to Bypass Tradition Electricity-Expansion Model by Embracing Microgrids and Renewables

first_img FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享The Economist:Thanks to a happy combination of innovation and falling costs for renewable energy, Africa may now be able to leapfrog ahead not once but twice, skipping both polluting fossil fuels and, often, the electricity grid itself.Last year Africa added a record 4,400MW of renewable-power capacity, roughly enough to meet Nigeria’s current consumption, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). This is partly due to falling costs: the price of solar panels has come down by more than 80% since 2010, and that of wind turbines is also dropping fast. A recent study led by Anton Eberhard of the University of Cape Town found that grid-connected wind and solar renewable energy in South Africa is now among the world’s cheapest.Yet generating power is useful only if it can be sent to where it is needed, and in many parts of Africa electricity grids seldom stretch beyond big cities. Adding a house to the grid even in a compact country such as Rwanda typically costs about $2,000, which is more than the country’s average annual income per person. The APP reckons that expanding grid power across Africa to reach almost everyone would cost $63bn a year until 2030, compared with the $8bn a year that is being spent now.Another set of innovations is offering to sidestep this problem with mini rooftop solar installations that can power a home, or slightly larger “micro-grids” that can light up a village. Rooftop solar systems usually consist of a small solar panel and a small rechargeable battery and controller which typically powers four lights, a radio and a phone charger. Most systems have a built-in connection to the mobile-phone network that allows the provider to switch it on or off remotely. Instead of shelling out $250 or so upfront for an entire system, customers can buy electricity for the equivalent of 50 cents a day using mobile money. If they run out of cash, their power is cut off until they are in funds again. Thanks to this new “paygo” model, venture capital is pouring into an industry that now has at least half a dozen significant firms. The largest of them, M-Kopa, has electrified more than 500,000 homes and is adding almost 200,000 more a year. Across the industry as a whole perhaps a million families now have rooftop power. At current rates of expansion, the total may double every 18 months or so.Prices for these systems are also falling fast. The Global Offgrid Lighting Association reckons that prices of small solar-powered lights fell by 80% between 2010 and 2015. It forecasts that those for a large home system, including low-powered lights, television and radio, will fall by 45% between now and 2020.The electrifying growth of rooftop solar energy is now sparking another round of innovation, some of which may in time travel back to the rich world. Azuri Technologies, a company based in Cambridge, England, is programming its systems to forecast how much power each household will use that evening. It then subtly adjusts the brightness of lights or the television to reduce power consumption on cloudy days.The main problem with rooftop solar systems is that they produce only small amounts of power. They enable clinics to keep functioning at night and to keep vaccines cool, and small shops to stay open longer and offer chilled drinks. But they cannot run power-intensive machines such as welders or mills, which require much larger solar installations and bigger batteries. Still, in the past few years a growing number of energy-intensive businesses such as mines have been putting up solar panels to replace diesel generators. The IEA reckons that this can cut a firm’s energy costs by half.These bigger systems are also beginning to play a role in powering villages with “minigrids”, which are much cheaper and easier to install than full-scale national power grids. Data on the spread of minigrids and their economic impact in Africa are scarce, but a study by the Rockefeller Foundation in India found that when minigrids were installed in villages, small businesses increased their sales by 13% and incomes rose across the area. The Smart Villages Initiative, which has brought together scientists from Cambridge and Oxford Universities to get minigrids adopted more widely in poor countries, found that once smallholder farmers have electricity, they quickly adopt a range of other technologies such as irrigation pumps and smartphones to get long-term weather forecasts. Minigrids have been relatively slow to take off because of their high capital costs, but several organisations are trying new business models to spread the expense. The Rockefeller Foundation is exploring whether mobile-phone companies can become anchor customers of minigrids. That would help to secure the finance needed to build the grid, but also to reduce one of mobile-phone companies’ biggest expenses: diesel for the generators that power their masts. By one estimate this accounts for as much as 60% of the cost of operating their networks in Africa. Minigrids can thus help to spread not just energy but, just as important, phone and internet connectivity.More: Africa might leapfrog straight to cheap renewable electricity and minigrids Africa Poised to Bypass Tradition Electricity-Expansion Model by Embracing Microgrids and Renewableslast_img read more

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U.S. Coal, Nuclear Industries Seek Billions in Tax-Credit Bailouts

first_imgU.S. Coal, Nuclear Industries Seek Billions in Tax-Credit Bailouts FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Axios:Two separate lobbying pushes are underway urging Congress to create new multi-billion dollar tax credits benefiting virtually all coal and nuclear power plants across the United States. The price tags: up to $65 billion for coal and $4.8 billion for nuclear.The efforts show the aggressive lengths companies are going trying to survive in a hyper-competitive electricity market while also seeking to take advantage of President Trump’s vows to boost coal and nuclear power, which has Republican backing in Congress. The tax credit proposals, which have not been publicly disclosed, face skepticism from others in the coal and nuclear industries and are sure to face criticism that they’re handouts to legacy energy sources.Companies and groups involved in the separate efforts, including coal-heavy utility American Electric Power, coal trade group American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity and nuclear utility Exelon, are working to persuade senators to introduce proposals in the coming weeks that are separate from the broader tax overhaul.Both measures face long odds, though the coal push is the tougher ask given its bigger price tag and nuclear power’s bipartisan backing. The companies are pushing for the proposals to be included as part of any broader tax-credit extension legislation Congress could take up before the end of the year or, more likely, next year.The tax proposals are different from a Trump administration effort to overhaul electricity market rules benefiting a smaller number of coal and nuclear plants. That effort, underway at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, is seeking to ensure the electric grid remains resilient. Coal and nuclear provide continuous electricity and can store fuel on site, unlike most other electricity sources.The gritty details about each tax credit, according to numerous industry officials either backing each proposal or aware of them.On coal:Pushed by American Electric Power, coal producers Peabody Energy and Arch Coal and the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, a coalition of coal producers and coal-dependent utilities.Would cost between $6 billion and $6.5 billion a year and last 10 years. That’s a little less than the annual combined average cost of wind and solar tax credits extended in 2015, Bailey said.All coal plants that comply with major Clean Air Act regulations would qualify, which is most if not all coal plants operating today that aren’t already scheduled to shut down.Bailey said this tax credit is necessary because whatever FERC may do would apply to about 40,000 megawatts of coal. The U.S. coal fleet is six times that. “This tax idea is designed to help the entire coal fleet, and not conflict with what FERC is doing,” Bailey said.Would allow coal plant operators to recoup half of their fixed operation and maintenance expenses up to a limit of $26 per kilowatt of installed capacity.A spokeswoman for AEP said the credit “would be an interim solution” as the FERC process unfolds. Requests for comment to Arch Coal were not returned. Peabody deferred to the trade group.On nuclear:Brown, the Exelon lobbyist, says other companies are likely to come out in support of its proposal soon.Early internal estimates of the cost are between $1 billion and $1.2 billion a year.It would be a 30% investment tax credit for capital expenditures at existing nuclear units that would run for four years.Exelon floated a similar version of this tax credit last year, but the issue wasn’t as ripe then as it is today, Brown said, thanks in part to Trump’s elevation of the issue.More: Exclusive: Coal and nuclear firms seek billions in new tax creditslast_img read more

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Total’s battery unit links up with Tianneng, targets expansion in China

first_img FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Reuters:The Saft subsidiary of French energy group Total has struck a new deal to expand its presence in China in the fast-growing market for batteries, energy storage and electric vehicles.Total said on Thursday that Saft had signed an agreement with Tianneng Energy Technology to create a joint venture to expand their lithium-ion activity. The companies did not disclose the value of the deal.Manufacturing will be based at the Changxing Gigafactory, with a potential capacity of 5.5 gigawatt hours (GWh), part of which is already in operation.Total’s Saft arm will have a 40 percent shareholding in the new venture, while Tianneng will hold the remaining shares.The companies said they plan to expand the Changxing facility and ramp up its production capacity to meet future growing demand, mainly driven by e-mobility sales and the development of renewable electricity generation capacity.The deal gives Saft and Total an entrance into the Chinese battery market as European manufacturers race to catch up with Asian rivals in the fast-growing market.More: Energy group Total’s Saft arm strikes China batteries deal Total’s battery unit links up with Tianneng, targets expansion in Chinalast_img read more

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Norway’s Equinor, China’s CPIH team up on offshore wind development

first_imgNorway’s Equinor, China’s CPIH team up on offshore wind development FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Reuters:Norwegian energy firm Equinor and state-owned China Power International Holding (CPIH) plan to cooperate in offshore wind developments in China and Europe, they said on Wednesday.The two firms signed a memorandum of understanding that they said was a step toward building a long-term strategic partnership, although an Equinor spokesman said it was too soon to outline specifics about what that would involve. “Next we will look at what projects we can develop together in China or Europe,” the spokesman for the Norwegian firm said.China has been one of the world’s biggest investors in renewable energy, such as solar and wind power. It is set to become the world’s largest offshore wind power market by 2030, CPIH and Equinor said in their statement.Equinor, the state-controlled oil and gas producer that has been seeking to expand its offshore wind energy business, has secured deals to erect turbines off the U.S. and British coasts. Equinor and London-listed SSE won a contract last week to build a 3.6 gigawatt (GW) offshore wind park at Dogger Bank in Britain’s North Sea that will involve investment of 9 billion pounds ($11.20 billion) from 2020 to 2026.Equinor, which aims to boost spending on renewables to 15%-20% of its total capital expenditure by the 2030, said on Friday it had offshore wind plans for about 7.4 GW in capacity, including projects in Poland, the United States and South Korea.CPIH is a subsidiary of State Power Investment Corporation (SPIC), one of China’s top five power producers.More: Norway’s Equinor to cooperate with China’s CPIH in offshore windlast_img read more

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Platte River utility to close Rawhide coal plant in Colorado 16 years early in green transition

first_imgPlatte River utility to close Rawhide coal plant in Colorado 16 years early in green transition FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享The Denver Post:The Platte River Power Authority said Tuesday that it will retire a coal-fired power plant by 2030, 16 years earlier than planned.The closure of the Rawhide Unit 1 northwest of Wellington and the end of Platte River’s ownership interest when a power plant in Craig shuts down will eliminate coal from the utility’s fuel mix by 2030.The Rawhide coal plant started operating in 1984. About 100 people work at the plant, which can produce 280 megawatts of electricity.Platte River Power, based in Fort Collins, has set a goal of having no carbon sources in its fuel mix by 2030. The community-owned utility said more than 50% of its energy will come from non-carbon resources by the end of this year and include wind and solar energy and hydropower.The Rawhide plant has served the communities well, but it’s time to move toward a cleaner energy future while providing reliable and financially and environmentally sustainable service, Wade Troxell, Platte River board chairman and Fort Collins mayor, said in a statement.In addition to Rawhide Unit 1, the 4,560-acre Rawhide Energy Station is the site of five natural gas combustion turbines and a 30 megawatt solar farm. A 22 megawatt solar installation and battery storage are under construction. Energy from the 225 megawatt Roundhouse wind farm in southern Wyoming will be transmitted to the Rawhide station and to the communities.[Judith Kohler]More: Platte River Power Authority to close coal-fired power plant by 2030last_img read more

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Whatever Works

first_imgEmma Sidoli at Triple FallsIs it bad to bribe your kid with candy? Will I get in trouble for even asking the question? Before you respond with shock and horror, let me state for the record that my daughter is not overweight or unhealthy. To me, she looks about like all the other seventh graders in her school. Her pediatrician assures us that she is in the appropriate height and weight ranges for her age.Yet, like any other concerned parent, I worry about the alarming obesity stats in our nation, particularly among our kids. I think about issues like our supersized culture and sugar in schools. I become enraged when I hear that her limited outdoor recess time has been replaced again by a classroom “dance party” because the teacher did not want to take the kids outside in temps below 70 or above 75. And I hate the fact that my daughter seems to prefer playing Super Mario Bros to being outdoors.Knowing what an outdoor junkie I am, one might assume that my kid would be just as passionate about playing in the woods. Not so. On the eve of our summer trip out west, as I gathered the camping gear and gushed about the beauty of Yellowstone and Bryce Canyon, she informed me that she prefers “luxury vacations”. To which I replied that she should be thankful that I was packing the Therm-A-Rest.Being the trooper that she can be when she puts her mind to it, she made the best of the situation and in the process, learned how to pitch a tent and keep a campfire going. She hiked more than she had previously believed was humanly possible with nary a complaint, even when the three mile round trip to the waterfall turned into a six mile slog without any water in sight. Okay, so she and her cousin did spend an inordinate amount of time charging their various electronics in the bathrooms that we did get to visit. At least they weren’t like the French girls we encountered, whose primary camping activities seemed to be blow drying their hair and applying make up.All in all, it was a fantastic trip and one that I hoped had installed a love of the outdoors in my tween. When we returned home, scraped up from a mountain bike wreck in Park City and sunburned from a long hike across the Utah desert, but happy and strong, I mistakenly assumed that our wilderness adventures would continue. Alas, the call of the Wii was just too strong. I had to come up with some motivation that would prevail over the seductive siren song of the electronic world.Enter the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy Hiking Challenge. I stumbled upon it one day and knew right away that it was just the sort of thing for me and my hardly hardcore kid. You complete eight hikes in the southern Appalachians, get to check out some of the most beautiful areas in the region, support a local nonprofit, and are rewarded with a very cool hiking patch and certificate. And a twenty-dollar gift certificate for Mast General Store.While idea of a patch and certificate wasn’t too motivating for my daughter, her ears perked right up at the mention of that last prize. “Of course,” I responded to her question about whether she could spend the card on anything she wanted. As soon as the words left my mouth, I remembered the bulk candy bins at that store. While I was picturing weekend treks into the Great Outdoors, her head was swirling with visions of gumballs and Jolly Ranchers. Before I could change my mind, she was signed up and anxious to get going on the hikes. We’d tackle the first one that very afternoon. Now, with four down and another on the agenda for this weekend, we’re well on our way to completing the challenge. I’m achieving my goal of spending more time in the woods with my kid and she’s realizing her dream of…candy? Which brings me back to my original question. Have I just become the enemy of dentists and pediatricians everywhere, or am I just doing whatever it takes to get my kid outside?last_img read more

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Daily Dirt: Toms Expands Into Coffee, National Park Numbers, Outdoor Nation Grants, and More!

first_imgNews from the Outdoor Industry affecting the Blue Ridge and Beyond…Toms Expands into CoffeeToms announced the launch of Toms Roasting Co. as the next product in the evolution of Toms’ One for One movement.Expanding its mission to use business to improve lives, Toms Roasting Co. will turn a daily ritual into a daily giving opportunity: For every bag of coffee purchased, Toms will provide one week of water to a person in need.Government Shutdown Reduced Visits to National Parks By Nearly 8 MillionVisits to national parks declined by 9.1 million, or 3.3 percent, in 2013 compared with 2012 — due in large part to the government shutdown that took place during the first 16 days of October, according to a report from the National Park Service (NPS).Great Smoky Mountains National Park retained its top spot among the 59 formally designated national parks, with 9.35 million visits in 2013. Grand Canyon National Park and Yosemite National Park retained their number-two and number-three spots in the top 10. Glacier National Park in Montana moved into the number 10 spot.More than 273.6 million total visits were recorded during the year at the 401 parks, historic sites and recreation areas that make up the National Park System. Despite the shutdown, some parks reported increases in visitation in 2013, including Gettysburg National Military Park and Vicksburg National Military Park, both of which were buoyed by large crowds and increased interest due to Civil War sesquicentennial events. Other parks saw reduced numbers due to extended weather-related closures, including Blue Ridge Parkway, which saw visitation fall by 2.5 million due in large part to storm damage and generally cold and wet conditions. In New York City, the lingering effects of Hurricane Sandy forced the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and Castle Clinton to remain closed for part of the year.NPS also released a new report showing visitors to national parks generated $26.75 billion in economic activity and supported 243,000 jobs in 2012. Golden Gate National Recreation Area replaced the Blue Ridge Parkway as the most visited site in the National Park System.The complete list of park visitation and other visitor-related statistics is available here.Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s 5th Annual Leaders in Conservation AwardsThe Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) will recognize Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell during its fifth annual Leaders in Conservation Awards Gala, May 20, 2014 in Washington, D.C.Secretary Jewell will be honored with the Vanguard Award in recognition of her notable advocacy for national parks, national scenic trails, wilderness areas and the benefits of outdoor recreation. As the 51st Secretary of the Interior, Jewell serves as steward for 20 percent of the nation’s lands, including national parks, national scenic trails, national wildlife refuges, and other public lands, and also oversees the responsible development of conventional and renewable energy supplies on public lands and waters. Prior to her confirmation in 2013, Secretary Jewell served in the private sector, most recently as president and chief executive officer of Recreation Equipment, Inc. (REI).In addition to Secretary Jewell, the ATC’s Leaders in Conservation Awards Gala will recognize Sen. Richard Burr and Congressman David Price, both from North Carolina, for their commitment to the preservation of the Appalachian Trail (A.T.).Thule Group Releases Positive Second Annual Enviro ReportThule Group AG released its second annual environmental report, highlighting progress it made in 2013 reducing its use of water, increasing its use of renewable energy and conducting product life cycle assessments.“At the Thule Group we have had the fundamental values of sustainability and the environment in mind throughout our history,” the company said in announcing the release of the report. “With our environmental reports, we have made this work more visible and formalized which also gives us the opportunity to monitor the development in a comprehensive way and through this make further improvements.” Thule Group has approximately 3,400 employees at more than 50 production facilities and sales offices worldwide.Lodging Bookings Solid in Eastern ResortsAdvance reservation activity at mountain resorts in both the Rockies and Northeastern regions showed continued strength in February bolstered by continued good economic news and snowfall. As of Feb. 28, with nearly 95 percent of all winter lodging business either already completed or on-the-books, aggregated figures for both regions show an 4.6 percent increase in overall occupancy for the 2013-14 season (November through April) compared to last year and a 10.4 percent increase in revenue according to the most recent data released by Denver-based DestiMetrics in their forward-looking monthly Mountain Market Briefing. Most notably, the report’s aggregated revenue figures among Western resorts have now exceeded the total year-end revenues from last winter with more than a month of business yet to be added to the bottom line.In addition to snowfall in many regions, strong economic news was also credited with driving business to the mountains. The Dow Jones Industrial Average made a strong rebound from January’s plunge and gained 623 points in January for the biggest single month increase since January 2013. The Unemployment Rate actually bumped up one basis point to 6.7 percent but the increase was considered positive news since the uptick was attributed to job seekers returning to the workforce as employers added 175,000 jobs during the month. The only declining variable discussed was the Consumer Confidence Index that dipped 1.6 percent for the sixth decline in the past 12 months but following increases in December and January. Unease among consumers about the short term outlook for business conditions, jobs and earnings was cited as the primary reason for the drop.Columbia Sportswear Raises $1 Million for Breast Cancer ResearchColumbia’s Tested Tough in Pink Collection, a partnership with the National Breast Cancer Foundation (NBCF) and key participating retailers, raised over $123,000 in 2013 — pushing the overall donation from the campaign to more than $1 million since 2007.“Columbia Sportswear Company has not only been ‘trying stuff since 1938’, as their company tagline denotes, they’ve clearly accomplished stuff as well,” says NBCF Founder & CEO, Janelle Hail. “Since 2007, they have raised over $1 million and helped NBCF provide thousands of free mammograms and early detection services for underserved women in all 50 states.”Two Deaths Reported at Half-MarathonsTwo runners collapsed and died near the finish lines of half-marathons in recent weeks and a third runner collapsed and was resuscitated immediately after completing the New York City Half.After finishing the Shamrock Half-Marathon in Virginia Beach, 16-year-old Cameron Gallagher, an active athlete, was treated at an aid tent and taken to a nearby hospital, where she later died, according to the Richmond-Times Dispatch.In the town of Fleet, Hampshire, UK, organizers of the Brooks Fleet Pre-London Half Marathon reported a male runner collapsed near the end of the race route and could not be resuscitated by medical staff. The same day, a 43-year-old runner collapsed at the finish line of the New York City half-marathon but was revived with oxygen from an EMT.According to research, for approximately every 150,000 marathoners, one will die, typically from a heart attack precipitated by a congenital heart defect (in runners under 35 or so) or by artery blockage in older runners. The death rate in half-marathons is 40 percent that of marathons.Paddle Nation Grants Now in Third YearOutdoor Nation — the growing national initiative hoping to reconnect Millennials to the outdoors—along with top paddlesport manufacturers, retailers and stakeholders, Outdoor Retailer, and the National Park Service announced the opening of the 2014 Paddle Nation Grants.The initiative, now in its third year, will award $2,500 to each of 16 innovative paddling projects selected to connect young Americans to their waterways through recreational paddling.Projects that involve a national water trail, wild and scenic rivers, or a local outdoor retailer sponsor will be given special consideration. Those that engage family or multi-generational populations and urban or underserved communities are also encouraged. Winning projects will: reinforce the idea that recreational paddling is one of the most accessible and impactful ways to introduce young Americans to the outdoors; and be in partnership with a 501c3 and utilize social media channels as a way to reach additional audiences and engage participants. For more information or to apply for a Paddle Nation Grant, visit outdoornation.org/grants.SFIA Reports Consumer Confidence in Sports and Fitness Industry Affected by Cold WeatherParticipation in sports and plans to buy sports and fitness products decreased in the first quarter of 2014 due to severe winter weather, according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) Pulse Report.The Q1 SFIA Pulse Report said future planned participation increased from the 4th quarter of 2013 as those most likely to participate have been identified as higher income earners and between the ages of 25-49. Another key finding from the report is the bump seen in planned future spending on sports/fitness equipment. More information about SFIA’s Pulse Reports can be found here.last_img read more

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The Story of BRO

first_img “Who’s Blue Ridge Outdoors?”A guy in jean cut-off shorts is standing next to me, shirtless, sweating in the late August heat and casually sipping out of a pint glass at Ocoee Fest. He’s barefoot and a little drunk—standard protocol for any kayaking festival.“It’s a free regional magazine based out of Charlottesville, ” I begin, launching into my elevator speech on Blue Ridge Outdoors. As travel editor, I have answered this question hundreds of times before. Despite having had a few beers myself, I switch into cruise control and let my mouth do the talking while my brain reels in the shocking aftermath of his question.For shame, I think to myself. How can you not know what Blue Ridge Outdoors is?!Maybe he lives under a rock, I reason. He is a raft guide, after all. Even so, the river he works on, the Ocoee River, is in the heart of our coverage. His job, his passions, are our bread and butter. There is no excuse for this ignorance.“Oh!” he says after my spiel is over. The light bulb comes on. His eyes widen and I feel a faint flicker of hope. “I bought my first backpack from you guys!”Not quite.Blue Ridge Mountain Sports, a Virginia-based outdoor outfitter, is what most newcomers to the magazine associate with when they hear “Blue Ridge Outdoors.”I sigh, abandoning my disappointment in the raft guide’s failed realization. It’s not his fault. I hand him a sticker with our motto, “Go Outside and Play,” and a copy of the latest issue. He thanks me, raising his glass to the sky before taking a drink and rejoining the festivities. Later that night, I would see the same guy thrashing about in front of the stage, moving surprisingly in-rhythm with the band. When the music had stopped, he turned to leave and saw me near the middle of the pack.“Hey!” he shouted. “It’s the chick from Blue Ridge Outdoors!”Well, I thought, at least he remembered the magazine’s name.He barreled through the crowd to give me a high five. The bumper sticker I’d given him earlier was slapped crookedly across his bare chest. I smiled. Mission accomplished.SPEND YOUR MONEY ON SPORTS…WE’RE FREE.Just two decades ago, I wouldn’t have been so surprised to learn that this raft guide from Tennessee was unfamiliar with the publication. In fact, 20 years ago, my job, and that of more than half the magazine’s present-day staff, wouldn’t have even existed.Born in a windowless basement on 220 South Street in Charlottesville, Va., Blue Ridge Outdoors barely resembled the comprehensive regional publication it is today. Created by outdoor enthusiast John Blackburn, a graduate student at the University of Virginia and a contributing journalist for C-Ville Weekly, the early pages of BRO only covered Charlottesville-based adventures—directions to Blue Hole, best hikes in the Shenandoah National Park, how Devils Knob got its name. Everything was black and white, and the first three issues in 1995 were tucked neatly into the folds of C-Ville Weekly as a seasonal insert.“Most business startups fail,” says Rob Jiranek, BRO’s first publisher and, at the time, publisher for C-Ville Weekly. “The chances of having a magazine actually succeed back then were about 1 in 11. It was like getting into Harvard.”Despite the odds against them, Jiranek and Blackburn made the most of those early days and their five-person team. Just two years later, the magazine became a monthly, though its content remained limited to the mountains of Virginia.“It was a real petri dish of outdoor creativity,” says Jiranek of the office dynamic.With no budget for photography, Blackburn used his own pictures to accompany the stories, most of which he wrote himself. The staff at BRO sold ads by day, wrote stories at night, and somehow managed so scrape together an impressive issue each month. Part regional events calendar, part storytelling platform, the early issues of the magazine were characterized by witty writing and the authentic voices of writers who lived and breathed adventure in the Blue Ridge.By 2001, the team decided to spread the magazine’s coverage farther south and open a North Carolina office in Asheville. The decision would mark an important turning point in the growth of the magazine, setting the stage for BRO to evolve as the region’s definitive resource for outdoor adventure.A CHANGING LANDSCAPEWill Harlan was the first employee hired at the new North Carolina office. A top trail runner and outdoor writer, he became the magazine’s editor-in-chief, a position he has held for the past 14 years. As BRO’s most senior staffer, Harlan has helped the magazine expand its content and reach.“It’s a privilege working with this team. They are like family,” Harlan says. “The magazine has grown and evolved over the years, but we’ve always stayed true to our roots—edgy, original, authentic content.”Travis Searcy, who was hired a few months after Harlan, knows all-too-well just how far the magazine has grown. Brought on as a graphic designer in the Charlottesville office, Searcy says the layout process, called a “paste-up,” didn’t use PDFs or Adobe design software—all he needed was a printer, some scissors, and a little glue.“I would literally paste the ads onto the pages, then we’d mail that to the press, they’d photograph it, make plates, then print the magazine,” Searcy says.The layout process wasn’t the only thing that evolved. Steven McBride, a North Carolina-based photographer who has published the most BRO covers, remembers when he used to FedEx transparency slides to Harlan for cover photo submissions.“Back in the film days, everything was different,” McBride says. “Cameras were bigger and heavier. Lighting was harder to deal with. Photoshop back then was barely in existence.”But what BRO lacked in production resources, it made up for ten-fold in its unquestionable commitment to providing quality content. The magazine flourished. As the years passed, technology improved seemingly overnight, website redesigns came and went, and distribution doubled. By the time the magazine’s future owner, Blake DeMaso, got his hands on BRO, the publication had extended its editorial content to include adventures as far south as Georgia all the way up through West Virginia.“I love the mountains and I love the Blue Ridge. It’s where I grew up,” DeMaso says. “I identified with the magazine from day one.”The year was 2003 and DeMaso, having worked for several years in publishing for Condé Nast, was ready for a change in pace. He approached Jiranek near the end of the year about possibly becoming a business partner, and ended up with more than he bargained for. By March of 2004, DeMaso was the new owner of BRO.“I was only 30 years old, and I was very scared,” DeMaso remembers. “I was now in charge of a monthly magazine, a website that was six months out-of-date, five employees in Charlottesville, three in North Carolina, eight computers, a copier machine, a fax machine that didn’t really work, and a ping pong table.”But, really, what more do you need?PLAY HARD, WORK HARDThe Charlottesville BRO headquarters fit in one room. Located in a basement, the place had shoddy Internet and a drafty window. In the winter, staff wore fingerless gloves to keep their hands warm while they worked.“I used a desk made out of cardboard boxes for at least three months,” DeMaso says.With a ping-pong table in the middle of the room, a dartboard on the wall, and a regular littering of broken rubber bands on the floor from the daily rubber band wars, the first BRO office looked less like a magazine headquarters and more like a frat house.But when you play hard, you work hard, too. Thanks to the early efforts of a passionate group of people, the magazine is now distributed from Atlanta to Baltimore and covers adventures from Kentucky to the coast. Not long after DeMaso took over, the staff doubled in size, the magazine became full-color throughout, it expanded its page counts, added a glossy cover, and revamped its logo. The best part? It remained a free publication.“The goal from day one was always to provide free information to inspire people to go outside,” DeMaso says. “I think our goal will never change.”The stories that fill the magazine’s pages now reach over 300,000 readers every month. The advent of social media platforms brought new ways of engaging an ever-expanding audience and sharing news in real time. The magazine’s presence at regional events swelled to over 30 in a season with regular co-hosting of other races, music festivals, and events across the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic.Yet despite the changes, at its core, Blue Ridge Outdoors remains dedicated to the founding principle of the passion project that Jiranek and Blackburn gave life to: the idea that the great outdoors encompasses more than just the places where we play—they represent a way of living, a story worth telling, an environment in need of protecting, and a wildness within that we all are preserving. last_img read more

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Quick Hits: Atlantic seismic oil permit blocked during shutdown

first_imgVirginia governor announces Environmental Justice CouncilVirginia governor Ralph Northam has issued Executive Order 29, which reestablishes the Virginia Council on Environmental Justice. The council will be responsible for issuing recommendations focused on engaging minority, low-income, and underserved communities; public health; best practices for local governments; climate change and resilience; transportation systems; clean energy transition; and outdoor access. In a statement, Kendyl Crawford, Director of Virginia Interfaith Power & Light said that re-establishing the Council is one step towards making the state a more environmentally just place. “The recent treatment of environmental justice communities has made it clear that we have a long way to go,” said Crawford. “Environmental justice has been ignored in Virginia for too long.”Blue Macaw from “Rio” movie now extinct in the wildThe Spix’s macaw gained attention as a parrot named Blu in the movie ‘Rio’ who flew thousands of miles in an attempt to save his species. But a recently released study found that the Brazilian bird is now extinct in the wild. According to a report from BirdLife International, deforestation is the leading cause for the bird’s extinction. The report says the Spix’s macaw is one of eight bird species recently confirmed extinct or expected extinct. About 60 to 80 Spix’s macaws still live in captivity. Judge blocks Atlantic seismic oil permitting during government shutdownA federal court judge in South Carolina has ruled that the federal government cannot process seismic testing permits for offshore drilling while the government is shut down. The decision was issued in response to a motion filed by coastal cities and conservation and business groups opposed to the Trump administration’s effort to expand offshore drilling. Despite the shutdown, the Interior Department has recalled employees to continue working on permitting for both onshore and offshore drilling and testing, drawing widespread criticism from opponents of drilling. A spokesperson for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) says that the agency will comply with the judge’s orders.last_img read more

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Paddle the Alleghany Highlands

first_imgThe Eastern National Children’s Forest is the perfect place to get your young one outside and exploring the natural world around them with easy hikes and towering trees. A trip to the Alleghany Highlands wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Falling Spring Falls. View the 80-foot waterfall from the overlook on Route 220. While you’re in your car, head over to Humpback Bridge. Picnic beside the bridge, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, as you listen to the sound of the stream flowing past.  Get lost in the mountains and enjoy the waters of the Alleghany Highlands of Virginia.  Kayaking on the Cowpasture River, photo courtesy Alleghany Highlands Visit Douthat Lake at one of Virginia’s oldest parks, Douthat State Park. Swim, boat, or fish on the 50-acre lake. Or explore more than 40 miles of top-notch biking and hiking trails, offering breathtaking views of the mountains. At the other end of the Alleghany Highlands, you’ll find even more paddling opportunities at Lake Moomaw. Located at the base of the Gathright Dam, the 2,530-acre man-made lake is perfect for boating all year. Camp in the national forest and sleep among the stars.  Spend the night in the area known for its deep railroad history. Stop into the Alleghany Arts and Crafts Center or the Clifton Forge School of the Arts to enjoy a number of classes or unique exhibits. See a show at the newly restored Historic Masonic Theater. Keep an eye out for several events in the area, including the Jackson River Scenic Trail Marathon, Alleghany Gran Fondo, and Lake Moomaw Open Water Swim. Head to Alleghany Outdoors, located beside the Jackson River and Scenic Trail, for all of your gear needs while in town. They provide kayaks, rafts, tubes, and mountain bikes for a variety of adventures. They also operate a shuttle service, so you don’t have to worry about getting back.  Kayakers on Douthat Lake, photo by Sam Dean, courtesy of Alleghany Highlands All of this, and more, is what makes this part of Virginia Uniquely Alleghany.   visitalleghanyhighlands.com Grab your kayak or paddleboard and float the many lakes, rivers, and streams that make up the Alleghany Highlands Blueway. Explore the Jackson River as it flows through the two downtowns, Covington and Clifton Forge, and the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest. Follow the river on foot or bike as the Jackson River Scenic Trail runs for 14 miles along its banks. Paddle the Cowpasture River, with a few smaller rapids, as it converges with the Jackson River to form the headwaters of the James River. last_img read more

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