31 Dec
2020

Power Company Announces Unexpected Shutdown by Early 2018 of Two More Texas Coal-Fired Plants

first_imgPower Company Announces Unexpected Shutdown by Early 2018 of Two More Texas Coal-Fired Plants FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Power Magazine:Vistra Energy moved to halt a financial hemorrhage stemming from unprofitable conditions in the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), announcing plans to shutter two more coal-fired power plants—the 1.1-GW Sandow Power Plant (which includes a 2009-built unit) and the 1.2-GW Big Brown plant—in early 2018.The company’s decision made public on October 13 comes on the heels of an announcement last week by Vistra Energy subsidiary Luminary to shutter its 1.9-GW coal-fired Monticello plant in Titus County.Vistra Energy said the coal plant closures are necessary because they are “economically challenged in the competitive ERCOT market.” Specifically, it said, “Sustained low wholesale power prices, an oversupplied renewable generation market, and low natural gas prices, along with other factors, have contributed to this decision.”“This announcement is a difficult one to make,” said Vistra Energy President and CEO Curt Morgan. “It is never easy to announce an action that has a significant impact on our people. Though the long-term economic viability of these plants has been in question for some time, our year-long analysis indicates this announcement is now necessary.”The Sandow plant in Bastrop County, central Texas, has two units, one built in 1981, and the other in 2009. The Big Brown plant in Freestone County also has two units that were brought online between 1971 and 1972.  Sandow and Big Brown are fired with lignite, though Big Brown supplements with Powder River Basin coal.In September 2009, Luminant completed the 581-MW Sandow 5 unit in Milam County, Texas—the first new coal unit build in Texas in 17 years. It uses circulating fluidized bed technology and burns Texas lignite coal. In September 2009, Luminant completed the 581-MW Sandow 5 unit in Bastrop County, Texas—the first new coal unit built in Texas in 17 years. It uses circulating fluidized bed technology and burns Texas lignite coal.Vistra also said it entered into a contract agreement with Alcoa to terminate a long-standing power and mining agreement for the Sandow site. Alcoa will make a one-time payment to Luminant. The Three Oaks Mine in Bastrop County, which supports Sandow, will also close.More: Vistra Closing Two More Giant Uneconomic Coal Plants in Texaslast_img read more

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31 Dec
2020

BNEF: Corporate Renewable Investments Are Soaring

first_imgBNEF: Corporate Renewable Investments Are Soaring FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Bloomberg:AT&T Inc. and Walmart Inc. are among 36 businesses, government agencies and universities that have agreed to buy 3.3 gigawatts of wind and solar power so far this year. That’s on track to shatter the previous high of 4.8 gigawatts of disclosed deals last year, according to a report Monday by Bloomberg New Energy Finance.One of the key reasons is that smaller companies are more comfortable doing these deals now. “There’s a blueprint now,” said Kyle Harrison, a New York-based analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “So it’s a lot easier for other companies to do it.” In addition to the 4.8 gigawatts in announced deals last year, BNEF also estimates 600 megawatts of undisclosed contracts were signed in Asia.The gains are also due to local renewables program and growing demand in international markets like Mexico and Australia.Google and other big technology companies have driven the trend, but the pool of clean-power buyers is deepening. Smaller companies have benefited from growing standardization in the ways companies agree to buy clean energy. Sometimes these companies are recruited to buy wind and solar power from the same power plant as larger buyers that function “like anchor tenants,” Harrison said.More: Businesses Are Buying More Renewable Power Than Ever Beforelast_img read more

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31 Dec
2020

Indiana NAACP pushing NIPSCO for earlier closure of Michigan City coal plant

first_img FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Energy News Network:A northwest Indiana utility made headlines in September when it announced it will retire its last coal plant within a decade. That is not soon enough for the predominately African American community that bears the brunt of the plant’s pollution burden.NIPSCO’s new timeline for coal retirements has been widely celebrated by environmental groups both in and outside the state. Meanwhile, Indiana NAACP leaders continue to press the utility and regulators to act with greater urgency. “Those most impacted should not have to wait another decade for clean air,” said La’Tonya Troutman, environmental chair for the NAACP chapter in Michigan City, where NIPSCO plans to continue operating its coal plant through 2028.NIPSCO surprised many with its announcement that it would speed up coal plant retirements by about a decade and replace the generation with solar, wind and storage instead of a new natural gas plant. The utility retired its Bailly Generating Station in 2018 and now plans to close its R.M. Schahfer Generating Station in Wheatfield by 2023 and the Michigan City plant five years after that.State and local NAACP chapters say it is unacceptable for NIPSCO to leave Michigan City — the plant with the most African Americans living in its shadow — running for years beyond the rest of the utility’s coal fleet. They are calling on the utility to retire the plant by 2025. But that would pose an unacceptable risk to its reliability, according to NIPSCO planning documents. NIPSCO says keeping the Michigan City plant open until 2028 will buttress the energy delivery system while the utility upgrades its grid and secures new wind and solar generation. The plant already has the costly emissions control upgrades that would be necessary to keep R.M. Schahfer open for longer instead.In a previous round of long-term planning that ended in 2016, NIPSCO determined it would close both units of its coal-fired Bailly plant in 2018 (which it did) and two of five R.M. Schahfer units by 2023. The rest of Schahfer and the Michigan City plant would keep running as late as 2037 or beyond. NIPSCO’s new plan would close the Michigan City plant by around a decade earlier than previously planned. Its analysis also showed that an even earlier retirement would save customers more money still, but it says more time is needed to expand transmission and secure new generation, which is underway. The utility recently announced agreements for 800 megawatts of new wind capacity that will be online by 2020.“From a pure economic standpoint, the lowest-cost option for customers pointed toward retiring all remaining coal immediately,” said NIPSCO spokesman Nick Meyer. “However, we must ensure the reliability of our system for customers and there are steps that need to occur prior to the coal retirements.”More: Indiana NAACP leaders say coal plant timeline is unacceptable for residents Indiana NAACP pushing NIPSCO for earlier closure of Michigan City coal plantlast_img read more

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31 Dec
2020

Southwest Power Pool sets new wind generation record

first_imgSouthwest Power Pool sets new wind generation record FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享The Oklahoman:Hold on to your hat. Another wind energy penetration record was set this week on the electrical grid that serves Oklahoma and much of the Great Plains.The Southwest Power Pool announced energy generated by wind supplied about 15.3 gigawatts of 23.3 gigawatts of needed power across its 546,000-square-mile service territory at 2:08 a.m. Wednesday.That’s 65.7%, which means there was about a two in three chance that phone you charged overnight obtained that power from a renewable energy source.“As new wind gets installed that adds to our capacity and we do transmission improvements, both contribute to allow us to get more and more out of our wind resources,” said C.J. Brown, the regional transmission organization’s director of operations. Brown added that wind power-related records are fleeting as more and more of the resource is added onto the Southwest Power Pool’s grid.He attributes that not only to the organization’s success in building transmission lines to get that power onto the SPP grid, but also SPP’s efforts to improve its load forecasting and reliability and pricing functions.As of this week, there was 21.5 gigawatts of installed wind capacity within the SPP’s territory available to energize the system’s 66,000 miles of high voltage lines. In 2009, just 3 gigawatts of capacity was installed.More: Wind energy sets new record on the Southwest Power Pool’s gridlast_img read more

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31 Dec
2020

Wood Mackenzie: Global solar installations to hit record 114.5GW in 2019

first_img FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Greentech Media:Global solar PV installations will reach a new high of 114.5 gigawatts in 2019, up 17.5 percent over 2018.According to Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables’ new report, Global Solar PV Market Outlook Update: Q2 2019, the market is now back on a strong growth trajectory after a slowdown in 2018. Annual installations are expected to rise to around 125 gigawatts per year by the early 2020s.Global growth will continue despite a gradual decline in China, the world’s largest PV market. The Chinese market peaked at 53 gigawatts in 2017, driven by generous feed-in tariffs. We anticipate that a move toward more competitive procurement of solar PV will lead to more sustainable annual additions of 30 to 40 gigawatts.Countries installing between 1 to 5 gigawatts annually will be the market’s growth engine. In 2018, there were seven such markets. By 2022, we forecast that there will be 19, with new names added to the list including Saudi Arabia, France and Taiwan.In India, auction activity is starting to recover after a slowdown caused by land and transmission constraints. In the U.S., announcements of new state utility integrated resource plans, in Florida for example, are good news for the solar PV market.The European market will grow strongly as policy-driven markets look to deliver on 2020 and 2030 renewable energy targets.More: Global solar installations to reach record high in 2019 Wood Mackenzie: Global solar installations to hit record 114.5GW in 2019last_img read more

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31 Dec
2020

Global energy storage boom to Increase 122-fold by 2040

first_imgGlobal energy storage boom to Increase 122-fold by 2040 FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Utility Dive:Global energy storage deployment is expected to increase 122-fold over the next two decades to 1,095 GW/2,850 GWh by 2040, according to a new BloombergNEF (BNEF) report, published Wednesday.BNEF estimates this storage boom will require $662 billion of investment, even though the cost of lithium-ion batteries is expected to fall by 50% over the next decade.The research company also forecasts that renewables will account for almost 40% of the world’s electricity by 2040, up from 7% today, due to falling prices.The global transformation of the power grid toward renewable energy sources is expected to catapult the deployment of energy storage systems to new heights, while the anticipated electrification of the transportation sector and the power demand from that will help further reduce costs.BNEF pointed to the stationary storage and electric vehicle markets as the main drivers of the upcoming battery boom. “Two big changes this year are that we have raised our estimate of the investment that will go into energy storage by 2040 by more than $40 billion, and that we now think the majority of new capacity will be utility-scale, rather than behind-the-meter at homes and businesses,” Yayoi Sekine, energy storage analyst for BNEF and co-author of the report, said in a news release. Despite this positive outlook for the storage industry, S&P Global Platts Analytics identified raw material prices, fire protection and potential import tariffs as potential risks to future price reductions.More: Global storage deployments to hit 2,850 GWh by 2040, increasing 122-foldlast_img read more

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31 Dec
2020

Doosan Heavy, Korea National Oil to build 200MW floating offshore wind farm in South Korea

first_img FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Renews.biz:Doosan Heavy Industries & Construction is to collaborate with Korea National Oil Corporation on the development of a floating offshore wind farm off the coast of South Korea.The two companies have signed a memorandum of understanding to develop the [200MW] Donghae 1 floating project, which will form part of a 6GW complex off Ulsan and south-east region of the country.Work is scheduled to start on the complex in stages from 2023, Doosan said.The partners said that through the agreement Korea National Oil Corporation will develop the wind farm, while sharing business plans and licensing matters, with Doosan Heavy Industries & Construction providing the turbines for the project.Doosan Heavy Industries & Construction president Jeong Yeon-in said: “We will do our best to promote the business successfully by adding Doosan Heavy’s offshore wind power technology to Korea National Oil Corporation’s will to foster the floating offshore wind industry. We will improve the technology of offshore wind power suitable for the environment and contribute to vitalizing the domestic industrial ecosystem.”More: Korean duo form floating offshore pact Doosan Heavy, Korea National Oil to build 200MW floating offshore wind farm in South Korealast_img read more

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30 Dec
2020

Bees!

first_imgWatch out for the bees. It’s that time of year when the yellow jackets are in full force, frisky in the cool air, desperate in their final weeks of life, looking for a way to be remembered.So many of us have stories involving mountain bikes, yellow jackets, blood-curdling screams, and brutal stings followed by Benadryl slumbers.One fine fall day I was chasing two friends down Bennett Gap when at the top of the descent, through a very rocky and steep section, the bees attacked me, mad because the boys ahead of me rode over their nest and kept going. By the time the bees realized how mad they were about this disturbance, I happened to be bouncing my way down the hill after said boys. The bees, who didn’t have my same desire for chasing boys, decided instead to end their lives after jamming their stingers into ME.At first I tried to hold onto the bike and just go faster. That lasted for two seconds before I realized that I needed both hands to clear my skin surface of the mad insects. They seemed to be everywhere, including inside of my helmet, where they had the nerve to be even more mad than the ones merely stinging my legs. I jumped from my bike and tossed it down the hill in the direction I was headed so that I could run and swat simultaneously. Unfortunately I was unable to throw the bike very far, and soon surpassed it in my freakish downhill flight in cleats and spandex. I screamed to let the guys know I was being held back, but my words were not even coherent to my own ears.“Bees!” I screamed, “Bees! Don’t come back for me!”I didn’t want them getting stung, too. I continued staggering down the hill screaming and swatting when Jon came back only for me to yell for him to run away, run away! I flung my buzzing helmet down the hill and beat myself in the head as the bees trapped themselves into my thick, sweaty hair. Despite my warnings, he bravely entered the vicious swarm and helped me whack at bees, shouting for me to take off my shirt, which made me laugh, even though there really were bees inside of it.We managed to drop the swarm and collapsed onto a rock to inspect the damage as angry red welts immediately rose from my skin. I dreaded having to go back to retrieve my bike. I was feeling a little light-headed and couldn’t decide if it was from the adrenalin rush, stripping in the forest, or the histamines coursing through my veins. 1 2last_img read more

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30 Dec
2020

BRO on the Newsplex: 2014 Races and Olympic Debate

first_imgThis week BRO staff Ross Ruffing talks about our February 2014 issue. From a yearlong calendar of the region’s best running, biking, climbing, paddling, and snowsport events to a debate on summer vs. winter Olympics, this month’s issue is chock full of great content. If you haven’t picked up a copy yet, check out the stories in full here. Now let’s get ready to shred, sweat, and send!last_img

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30 Dec
2020

Turn It Off

first_img“You’ve got to be kidding me.”I dumped the contents of my dry bag onto the ground, picking through the soggy candy wrappers and first aid supplies until not a single item had gone unturned.“Daddio, let’s go!” my friend shouted from the river’s edge.It was six o’clock. Daylight was fading fast. Our group of three had decided not two hours earlier that we would try to squeeze in a lap down the Big Sandy, a class IV-V run at the heart of the Cheat River watershed. I’d waited an entire year to run this classic stretch of West Virginia whitewater, arranging my travels so I could be in the area when spring flows peaked. Though we’d be pressed for time, I was excited to get my personal first descent (PFD) and document the adventure with my trusty sidekick, a GoPro Hero 3+.The only problem? I’d forgotten the GoPro mount.“Dude, what took you so long?” my friend asked as I finally situated myself in the cockpit of my kayak and slid into the water.“I was looking for my GoPro mount,” I said.“Well, where is it?”“I forgot it.”My friend’s eyes widened. He rammed my boat with the bow of his.“What do you mean you forgot it,” he asked? “How are we gonna get shots of you coming off Wonder Falls?”“That’s not what it’s about,” I said, hardly convincing myself. “Let’s just paddle.”We set off downstream, and for the first half hour, I barely took notice of the immense rock walls rising from the river and the golden sunlight peeking over the treetops—I was too busy kicking myself for forgetting that stupid piece of plastic.In my mind, I could see the picture that I’d never have: the spray of Wonder Falls against an early evening haze, my green boat soaring off the lip of that glorious 20-footer, blade planted firmly, face part-bewildered, part-determined. No. There would be none of that. There would be no evening GoPro viewing over a round of beers, no posting a photo of my first waterfall run to Instagram, no proof that I’d even paddled the Big Sandy at all save for a bloody knuckle and my friend’s word.So would anyone believe that it had happened at all?This isn’t the first time I’ve struggled with being in the moment and wanting to document it, too. I once hiked for two hours in the dark to shoot a sunrise, only to realize at the summit that I’d left my camera battery plugged into the wall back home. And while, eventually, I was able to get past my irritation and enjoy the picturesque morning in technology-free, unadulterated bliss, I couldn’t help but let one dangerous thought sneak into my consciousness—I got up at 3 a.m. to hike for nothing.Of course, it wasn’t for nothing. While there would be no mountaintop selfie to share with my friends on Facebook, the scene of the rising sun illuminating the valley floor remains imprinted in my memory as clear as if I had seen it yesterday. Still, it got me thinking: why was I up there anyway? Was it really for the sunrise?There’s no denying that the reach of social media has extended far beyond our screens. Adventure photographers like Corey Rich and Renan Ozturk post to Instagram amid the world’s most extreme settings. From the Dawn Wall of El Capitan to the high altitude peaks of Myanmar in Southeast Asia, armchair travelers can revel in the exotic and the epic without ever leaving their desktop. These days, social media is inescapable, seemingly as essential to adventure as the adventure itself.But is that necessarily a bad thing? While it could be argued that social media platforms have taken away the mysteries of the world and exploited our natural playgrounds, particularly designated wilderness areas, is it possible to make the case that social media has actually played an important role in getting more people outside?Mike Cordaro is an active Strava user, but says the app doesn't dictate his time in the woods...mostly.Mike Cordaro is an active Strava user, but says the app doesn’t dictate his time in the woods…mostly.“It’s a double-edged sword for sure,” says Mark Eller, communications director for the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) and mastermind behind the online forum MTB Project.Eller has spent the better part of his life on a set of wheels. Just a few years ago, however, his obsession with riding took a different turn when he downloaded a new social media app designed with the competitive rider (and runner) in mind: Strava.Touted as an all-encompassing fitness app that logs everything from calories burned to GPS coordinates, Strava certainly isn’t the only app of its kind. But its ability to break down rides into segments and put users’ times against each other on a digital leaderboard has spurred a new generation of athletes to go hard in pursuit of their rightful place atop the cyber podium as King of the Mountain (or KOM).“We call them ‘Stravaletes’,” says New River Bikes owner Andrew Forron. “That or ‘Strava-assholes.’”If you couldn’t tell, Forron’s not the biggest fan of Strava. In fact, should you find yourself on a group ride in the New River Gorge with Forron at the helm, don’t be surprised if he asks you to turn it off. If you don’t, consider this: he’s not afraid to do it for you.“I think it’s terrible,” Forron says about Strava. “I think it’s changed how people interact together when they go places. It used to be when you went somewhere, you went to the bike shop, met the folks there, and tried to get in on their after-work ride.”Now, Forron says, cyclists don’t need the bike shop community to find the cool local loops in town—all they need is a little cell coverage and a Strava account.“It creates a false sense of community,” Forron adds, “and it’s caused more people to ride alone.”Though there’s undoubtedly some truth in Forron’s claim, for riders like Eller, Strava affords ambitious individuals an outlet for that need for speed.“It allows you to have a competitive riding experience wherever you are, whether you’re with someone else or not,” Eller says of the fitness app. “I’m a dad with a three-year-old and a six-year-old, and for a number of years, I haven’t been able to go out to races. Strava opened the door to get that competitive vibe back in my riding.”Mike Cordaro of Mount Pleasant, Penn., couldn’t agree more. Look up any route on Strava in the southwestern corner of Pennsylvania and Cordaro’s name is likely somewhere near the top five. In total, Cordaro’s racked up over 50 KOMs on his home turf in preparation for this year’s National Ultra Endurance (NUE) series, and says the app has helped him keep track of his weekly averages (three rides, 80 miles, seven and a half hours in the saddle).“I’m not chasing KOMs every time I go,” Cordaro says, “but it motivates me. I see other people ride [on Strava] and feel like I need to get after it.”And while Cordaro and Eller and, heck, even Forron, can agree that anything which motivates you to get on your bike is ultimately good, Strava has recently come under legal attack for influencing cyclists in particular to ride faster on trails that have no business being the stage for an unofficial time trial.“Public trails don’t necessarily make great race courses,” Eller says. “You have to be discerning about when and where it’s appropriate to gear your brains out.”“Strava’s not a reason to forgo trail etiquette,” Cordaro adds. “Ultimately, if [competitive cycling] is your goal, the best way to do that is racing.”Still, even Eller admits to allowing his competitive instincts to get the best of him, riding for weeks at a time without ever turning Strava off. But in a blog he posted on IMBA’s site titled “Confessions of a Strava Addict,” Eller brings up a good point, stating, “…it’s not like my nerdy geek posse wasn’t comparing times before Strava.” Whether by Garmin or by pencil and paper, mountain bikers have been keeping track of ride data for as long as mountain biking has existed.The only difference now? You can’t fudge the facts, something Maryland-based kayaker Ian Wingert knows all too well.Photo cred: Justin StephensPhoto cred: Justin StephensBack in early March, Wingert and two of his fellow paddlers, Todd Baker and Wyatt Hyndman, successfully navigated the first descent of Cucumber Falls outside of Ohiopyle, Penn. At almost 40 feet in height, Cucumber Falls isn’t the tallest waterfall to be run in the Laurel Highlands, but it’s likely the driest.“We knew it was going to run one to two days a year,” Wingert says. “We can’t really afford trips to Mexico or the Northwest, so when this came along, we knew we had to do it.”The crew had been scouting the line at Cucumber Falls for nearly three years but the water level was never high enough for an attempt. After a few days of heavy rain and snowmelt in late February 2015, however, the opportunity finally presented itself—it was now or never.With a friend setting safety at the bottom, all three paddlers styled clean lines over the drop. But it was in the pool below the falls that two of the three, Wingert included, got into trouble. A fallen log blocked the current’s main flow on river right, creating what’s referred to as a “strainer.” Though Wingert and Hyndman hit the log head-on, they flushed through and escaped unscathed. Baker altogether avoided the strainer and safely eddied out above, but as the three would soon find out, that log would prove to be the least of their problems.“The video made it look like we disregarded the fact that there was wood at the bottom and like we were disregarding safety,” Wingert says of the two-minute edit Baker compiled from their first descent footage.The video, which Wingert and Baker’s employer Immersion Research (one of the whitewater industry’s leading gear manufacturers) later posted to its Facebook page, attracted over 100,000 views and received nearly 2,000 shares in the first few hours of going live. The first descent was suddenly viral, but not without controversy.“Just dumb,” read one comment.“I’m calling that bad etiquette. Bad safety and stupid,” read another.Yet countless more comments rallied in defense of Wingert and his crew, arguing that, as with any adventure, not everything goes according to plan. Risk is inherent in any endeavor, especially when it comes to tackling first descents.Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 1.05.17 PM“A lot of people who saw it as negative thought it was dumb luck, like we weren’t talented paddlers, just dumb kids with GoPros,” Wingert says. “It brought me down in the moment,” but not so much that he turned away from social media altogether.Whether he’s cranking out laps on the Top Yough in his backyard or making multi-day kayaking trips down to western North Carolina, Wingert is as active on social media as he is in a boat and says that Facebook in particular has been a useful tool in organizing paddling trips. What’s more, the ‘group’ function on Facebook allows area paddlers to post updates on rivers and creeks, notifying other river users about access issues, environmental threats, water levels, and, ironically, new strainers. A simple status update can rally a post-work group paddle. Stranded at the takeout without a shuttle?“It’s great for that kind of thing,” Wingert says. “It’s cool to see what everyone else is doing, unless you’re stuck at work and your friends are paddling.”While Wingert is hesitant to say whether or not he would ever attempt Cucumber Falls again, he is certain that his group won’t be the last. And as for the falls? A sign posted by state park officials the day after Wingert’s first descent now reads loud and clear.Cucumber Run closed to boating.Photo cred: Justin CostnerPhoto cred: Justin CostnerThe closure of Cucumber Run and the subsequent falls is just one of many instances where the power of social media has forced officials to respond in a way that’s not exactly favorable to outdoor enthusiasts. One of the biggest culprits these days? Instagram.“It’s a really touchy subject,” says western North Carolina-based photographer Justin Costner on shooting photography in public lands.Though Costner himself has never had any run-ins with the Forest Service, he’s heard enough horror stories about court dates and hefty legal fines that he’s taking the better-safe-than-sorry approach by purchasing a commercial photography permit.“I understand not violating the forest, but I think people should have the right to shoot photos from their adventures and trips,” he says.Costner, like any respectable outdoor recreationalist, practices Leave No Trace (LNT) principles and respects even the strictest of regulations in areas like the Linville Gorge Wilderness, but not all photographers are as considerate.In March 2014 for instance, popular Instagrammer Trevor Lee (@trevlee) was charged with nine misdemeanors for camping and climbing trees in undesignated areas of Yosemite in pursuit of a better angle. Later that same year, Casey Nocket (@creepytings) made national news when she posted Instagram photos of portraits she had painted on rocks in eight national parks. Though Nocket called it “art,” the park service had a different word for it: vandalism. Lee and Nocket are extreme examples of a gram-gone-bad, but their trials should serve as warning to Instagram users with tunnel vision for the perfect shot.In general, though, the average Instagram user is an amateur photographer with a trigger-happy finger and a desire to be inspired. That’s how Jessica Georgia (@jessicageorgia) came to decide to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail and document all 2,180 miles of the journey through her Instagram feed.“One of my passions and hobbies is photography,” Georgia says. “That’s initially what got me into Instagram, but then I started finding outdoor locations I didn’t even know existed.”From there, Georgia started getting inspired in a big way, and not just to take more photographs: hiking became her newfound love. The idea of thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail was romantic to Georgia, who, at 30 years old, is both a wife and a mother to a 12-year-old daughter. But when her family hiked through the Grayson Highlands during peak thru-hiking season, Georgia got the affirmation she needed that the A.T. was her calling.“It was so inspiring and I was so envious,” Georgia recalls, “but at the same time, I didn’t know if I could do it.”Yet just a year later, Georgia was taking her first steps along the white blaze at Springer Mountain. To ease the distance between mom-on-the-trail and family-at-home, Georgia says she tries to update her Instagram as frequently as possible so her daughter may be able to better grasp what a thru-hike actually entails.@jessicageorgia @jessicageorgiaTake a quick scroll through her feed and you’ll see the good and the bad of thru-hiking: swollen feet, bug bites, fellow hikers, trail angels, sweeping vistas. Following Georgia’s Instagram is about as close as you can get to hiking the trail yourself without ever leaving your home. And for Georgia, the supportive network of followers has been just as rewarding to her as the hike itself.“It’s encouraging when you can post something to Instagram and have people say, ‘That’s amazing Jess keep going!’ Having that community cheering you on is definitely a mental boost,” something that, as any thru-hiker can attest to, will surely brighten even the worst of days.Like Georgia, that sense of community is what I cherish about social media. Though my Facebook feed is often plagued with incoherent political and personal rants, it’s proven invaluable as a tool for making connections and finding story ideas. In fact, each and every one of the people I interviewed for this story were all contacted initially via social media, be it through Facebook or Instagram.But, as nearly all of my subjects pointed out, that’s not to say there aren’t pitfalls to the platforms. Do I think there’s such a thing as “oversharing”? Yes: I don’t need to see everything you eat. Do hashtags annoy me? When there are more hashtags than caption copy, most definitely. Does social media dictate the way I choose to spend my time in the outdoors?Absolutely not.As I sat atop that summit watching the rising of the sun, the weight of a battery-less camera sinking into my lap, I wasn’t thinking about the likes and comments I wouldn’t receive. I was thinking how damn lucky I was to be me in that moment witnessing one of the most overlooked miracles of this world.As Mark Eller from IMBA so simply put it, “People have to remember that you can turn it off if you want to.”So turn it off, if you want to.last_img read more

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