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EGEB: Murray Energy goes bankrupt as coal’s canary gasps its dying breath, more

In today’s Electrek Green Energy Brief (EGEB):

  • The largest private coal company in the US, owned by Robert Murray (above), has filed for bankruptcy.
  • Could saltwater and rust be the latest source of green energy?
  • Which US metro areas have the most solar panels on homes?
  • The Bureau of Land Management approved what will become the largest wind farm in the US.

The Electrek Green Energy Brief (EGEB): A daily technical, financial, and political review/analysis of important green energy news.

Murray Energy files Chapter 11

Murray Energy Holdings Co, the largest private coal company in the United States, has filed for bankruptcy in the midst of a rapidly diminishing demand for coal.

The company filed for Chapter 11 protection in Columbus, Ohio’s US Bankruptcy Court to restructure more than $2.7 billion of debt, according to Bloomberg. Lenders will be providing the company with $350 million to keep operations running during the restructuring.

Robert Murray founded the company in 1988 and unsurprisingly, has been a huge advocate for the coal industry. Murray’s company donated $1 million to a PAC backing Trump in the 2018 election. One of Trump’s campaign promises was to revive the coal industry. Murray previously fought Barack Obama’s clean air initiatives.

As Electrek reported in October 2016:

Robert Murray, a climate-change denier and CEO of Murray Energy Corporation, one of the biggest coal mining firms in the US, called Tesla a ‘fraud’ for receiving subsidies without turning a profit.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk fired back at Murray, saying that the ‘real fraud going on is denial of climate science’ and he suggested that Murray’s own company was profiting from subsidies and that they should both try to compete without any.

According to End Coal, “Coal is responsible for over 800,000 premature deaths per year globally and many millions more serious and minor illnesses.” Coal causes 44% of global carbon dioxide emissions.

Does saltwater + rust = green energy?

California Institute of Technology and Northwestern University researchers have discovered that saltwater running over iron oxide, aka rust, results in kinetic energy that could be converted into electricity. Cronkite News explains:

[Franz Geiger, a professor of chemistry at Northwestern in Evanston, Illinois] and [fellow researcher Tom Miller, who teaches chemistry at Caltech] ran gallons of saltwater over nanolayers — thinner than a potato-chip bag — of rust from iron, vanadium, or nickel to generate electrical current.

“The ions present in saltwater attract electrons in the iron beneath the layer of rust,” Geiger said. “Instead of corrosion, the presence of the oxides on the right metals leads to a mechanism that shuttles electrons.”

The process is much more efficient than the best solar panels in today’s solar industry, Geiger said.

The researchers say the technique can be developed into usable power with more research and funding.

The most solar places in America

Cape Analytics is a Mountain View, California-headquartered company that scans and interprets geospatial imagery. The company decided to look for evidence of solar panels across America, and published their findings in a report today called “The Most Solar Places in America.”

Cape Analytics used AI to look at more than 38 million homes in 21 metropolitan areas across the US.

Here’s what they learned:

  • Of the 38 million homes Cape Analytics examined across the US, 1.8% of them had solar panels.
  • On a per-capita basis in the 21 metropolitan areas it looked at, that came out to 1,837 solar homes per 100,000 homes.
  • San Diego is the most solar city, and Detroit is the least.
  • From this data set, calculations revealed the “Solar 100” (cities with the highest rate of solar — see the report for the full list).
  • Brentwood, California, is the most solar place in the US.
  • Almost all of the other top 100 most solar cities are located in California.
  • More than 30% of the homes in La Costa Ridge in Carlsbad, California, have solar panels, making it the most solar neighborhood in the country.

Click here to see Cape Analytics’ metro area rankings and Electrek‘s thoughts on why they panned out the way they did.

Largest US wind farm gets federal green light

The Bureau of Land Management gave the Power Company of Wyoming, who are developing the Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Project, preliminary approval to build its second phase. The second phase adds 396 turbines.

The project’s planned capacity would make it larger than the 1,550-MW Alta Wind Energy Center in California, currently the biggest in the US.

The wind farm’s output will be sent to California through a $3 billion high-voltage transmission line. It was approved in April and is still under development. It may be completed by 2023.

Photo credit: Murray Energy Holdings Co

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Avatar for Michelle Lewis Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis is a writer and editor on Electrek and an editor on DroneDJ, 9to5Mac, and 9to5Google. She lives in St. Petersburg, Florida. She has previously worked for Fast Company, the Guardian, News Deeply, Time, and others. Message Michelle on Twitter or at Check out her personal blog.