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Thanksgiving is coming up next week and we at The Balmoral Group hope all who celebrate have an enjoyable time with family and friends and lots of delicious food! We'll be taking next Friday off but will be back in December for more economic updates.
This week: solar power manufacturing is getting a boost from the Inflation Reduction Act, as well as from the clean power sector, one company's aquaculture farming is being curtailed in Puget Sound, Thanksgiving dinner is more expensive than ever thanks to inflation and other issues, and apparently there's more than one way to spell "Sweet Potato."
Coal Ash to Solar Pond
The Tennessee Valley Authority will spend $216 million to determine feasibility of installing a cap with solar panels on a 300-acre closed coal-ash disposal impoundment at its Paducah, KY coal-fired plant. The Authority calls the effort a first, and if successful intends to replicate the process at 20 other coal ash sites to generate 1,000 MW of “clean” power. The news comes as coal ash, and specifically certain classes of coal ash that are certified for use in structural concrete mixes, is increasingly difficult to obtain. In recent years, efforts to harvest usable coal ash from ponds for beneficial use have been optimistic but have failed so far to reach a cost-feasible scale. ENR.
You Say Sweet Potato, I Say Sweetpotato
With the Thanksgiving holiday up next week, we thought it’d be a good time for some potato trivia. North Carolina is the top sweetpotato producing state by a long shot (California is a distant second). And officially in NC, it’s called a sweetpotato – not two words (thanks to some lobbying by the North Carolina Sweetpotato Commission and subsequent law changes). The goal in the re-name was to distinguish it from the other potatoes. Sweet potatoes (we’ve reverted back to conventional spelling) are actually root vegetables (like carrots or beets), while white potatoes and yams are actually tubers (enlarged, underground stems). Sweet potato consumption has been on the rise, and national production has about doubled in the last 20 years – going from about 1.5B lbs/yr to around 3B lbs/year. However, you spell it or say, we hope you enjoy some potatoes next week.
Washington Not Renewing Cooke Aquaculture Leases
The Washington State Department of Natural Resources is giving Cooke Aquaculture until December 14 to finish steelhead farming and deconstruct equipment from its aquaculture site after the decision was made to not renew their leases in Pugent Sound. The Canada-based aquaculture company failed to comply with provisions and also had an incident in 2017 with a pen break near the San Juan Islands, where as many as 263,000 of nonnative Atlantic salmon spilled into the ocean. The state Legislature passed a law that phased out net pen farming of exotic species in Washington waters in 2018. Twenty western Washington treaty tribes have been at the forefront of ending nonnative fish farming in Washington, as they can negatively impact the fish and fish habitat in the bay. Kitsap Sun.
Inflation Reduction Act Prompts Domestic Manufacturing Boom
First Solar will be investing more than $1 billion on a new panel factory in Alabama. This will be their fourth solar panel factory in the U.S., driven by incentives passed in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). This facility will produce 3.5 gigawatts of solar modules annually by 2025 and create 700 new jobs. The IRA has dramatically increased stock value of First Solar, as they hit their highest level since 2011. In total, First Solar has invested $4 billion in U.S. manufacturing, making them the largest solar panel manufacturer in the U.S. Read more here.
Data Visualization of the Week
Inflation Hits Thanksgiving Dinner
According to the American Farm Bureau Federation's annual Thanksgiving Dinner Cost Survey, the average cost of a feast for 10 is $64.05, or about $6.50 per person. Compared to 2021, this is a 20% increase from last year’s average of $53.31. The Bureau cites inflation, including the 12% jump in the Consumer Price Index report for food consumed at home over the past year, as well as avian influenza-driven shortages in some states, and supply chain disruptions exacerbated by the war in Ukraine as causes for the steep increase in holiday dinner costs. Read more here.