Best of the West: Western renewables rising; Utah’s wildlife bridge; how the U.S. uses its land

Energy, The West

The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on news of the West. Here are the western stories for the week starting July 30, 2018, that you don't want to miss.

Western states lead the nation in renewable energy production. California, Arizona and Nevada rank in the top four states for solar production, and according to the American Wind Energy Association, wind energy supplied more than 30% of the electricity in Kansas, Oklahoma, and South Dakota last year. New Mexico added wind power capacity at a faster rate than any other state.

Recent approval by the Idaho Public Utilities Commission of a $2 billion energy plan paved the way for three new projects in Wyoming, which combined will provide enough new electricity to power more than 400,000 average homes by 2020.

Now, water managers are proposing plans to capture and save energy, similar to a battery, produced by the Hoover Dam. A $3 billion pipeline and a pump station powered by solar and wind energy would be installed to help regulate water flow through the dam’s generators and send it back to the top to help manage electricity at times of peak demand.

Getting a Lay of the Land: A series of interactive maps using U.S. Department of Agriculture data shows how the country divvies up its land use. Bloomberg found that “gathered together, cropland would take up more than a fifth of the 48 contiguous states. Pasture and rangeland would cover most of the Western U.S.” Click here to see how the six major types of land are dispersed. 

Smoke Screen: Western air quality is being impacted by wildfire smoke. California wildfire smoke has reportedly drifted to Idaho, Utah, Colorado, Oregon and Washington. Read safety precautions from Montana health experts for residents.

Animal X-ing: Utah is building its first bridge dedicated to wildlife in Parleys Canyon, outside Salt Lake City. The 330-foot-long structure is designed to improve safety and migration corridors, and reduce vehicle collisions with wildlife, which had claimed the lives of 106 animals in the past two years.

Sea Change: The sale of sunscreen with chemicals that harm coral reefs will be banned in Hawaii beginning in 2021. Gov. David Ige signed the legislation, becoming the first to implement the change, saying “This new law is just one step toward protecting the health and resiliency of Hawai‘i’s reefs.” 

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