WRAL: Duke Energy Plans to Invest $500 Million in Solar

A North Carolina agency has approved Duke Energy's plans to invest $500 million in solar power to meet the state's requirement that more of its electricity come from renewable energy.

The Charlotte-based utility will build three solar-generating facilities and purchase power from five more built by investors. The new solar arrays will produce 278 megawatts of electricity.

Duke said Monday that the plans were approved by the North Carolina Utilities Commission, and will help the nation's largest electric company meet its 2015 requirement that renewables produce 6 percent of its 2015 retail sales.

Motley Fool: Can a Renewable Energy Giant Create the Utility of the Future?

One of the most significant acquisitions in the history of the utility sector just took place. Hawaiian Electric Industries agreed to sell its utility business to NextEra Energy for $4.3 billion.

The move is significant not because it creates an ever larger utility, but because one of the largest renewable energy asset owners in the world is acquiring a utility that is being overrun by renewable energy. Hawaiian Electric has been fighting an onslaught of rooftop solar energy that has transferred energy-generating assets from its own control to customers. Regulators have even squashed an effort by the utility to slow the growth of solar.

If it chooses to, NextEra could build the next-generation utility, one that embraces solar and wind energy while addressing the challenges that come from these energy sources.

Associated Press: U.S. Stocks Fall as Energy Sector Drops Sharply

U.S. stocks fell on Monday as oil prices turned sharply lower and spooked investors into dumping shares of drillers and other energy-service companies.

The drop in oil weighed on stocks from the start of trading. Weak trade figures out of China and news that Japan's recession is deeper than initially thought suggested demand for crude would be lower in those two economies. Among the big losers were two Dow Jones industrial average components, Chevron, down 3.7 percent, and Exxon Mobil, off 2.3 percent.

Fuel Fix: Study Finds ‘Significant’ Methane Leaking From Abandoned Wells

As the Obama administration nears a decision on whether -- and how -- to clamp down on methane leaking from active oil and gas operations, new research suggests abandoned wells may be a significant source of the potent greenhouse gas.

The study, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, focuses on nineteen representative abandoned oil and gas wells in Pennsylvania. The findings can be extrapolated to the approximately 3 million such wells located across the country.

Washington Post: NOAA Report Says California Drought Mostly Due to Natural Causes

The buildup of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere may worsen Western droughts in the future, but it is not the principal driver of the historic drought afflicting the entire state of California right now, according to a major NOAA report released today.

“Natural oceanic and atmospheric patterns” are to blame for the drought, the 42-page report says. Specifically, it highlights a persistent area of high pressure off the West Coast that has blocked rain-bearing storms from coming ashore -- which some have dubbed the “ridiculously resilient ridge.”

The pattern of sea surface temperatures also contributed to the drought, the study says.