Canary Media’s top 10 clean energy stories in 2023

These viral articles featured manufacturing, heat-pump water heaters, new nuclear fuel, CA solar drama and, via Portugal, a postcard from the future.
By Alison F. Takemura

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A collage showing workers installing and manufacturing solar panels and a wind turbine. The year 2023 is overlaid in pink.
(Binh Nguyen/Canary Media)

Canary readers stampeded to these clean energy stories, from close looks at fatty fuels and electric lawn tools to California’s controversial solar policy moves and an inspiring account of one country’s recent renewable-power streak.

Did your favorites make the list? Check out 10 of Canary’s most popular stories of the year below.

10. The smelly, greasy truth about how sustainable aviation fuel is made

Maria Gallucci’s on-the-ground reporting took us to dumpsters filled with the discarded cooking oils and animal fats that are increasingly being used to help clean up aviation. Her evocative writing will have you practically smelling the phantom french fries.

9. The U.S. climate law is fueling a factory frenzy. Here’s the latest tally

Clean energy manufacturing plants are springing up across the U.S. because of the sweeping industrial policy of the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act. Check out these data visuals to find out where the factories are, who’s investing in them at what dollar amounts, and when they’re expected to come online.

8. Here’s why electric lawn mowers are cutting down the gas-fueled competition

An unexpected passion stirs in the hearts of many owners of battery-powered lawn equipment, and for good reason. Experts say electric outdoor power tools outperform their gas-guzzling counterparts — plus, they’re way better for the climate and local air quality.

7. The U.S. may soon get its first new source of nuclear fuel in 70 years

An Ohio-based company got key regulatory approval to handle the precursor material for a concentrated form of nuclear fuel: high-assay low-enriched uranium, or HALEU. A domestic supply would indeed be cause to celebrate; it would allow advanced nuclear reactor startups to wriggle out from under the thumb of the only current commercial supplier — a company owned by the Russian state.

6. Heat-pump water heaters are a winner for the climate — and your wallet

Heat-pump water heaters are so ridiculously efficient that owners who switch from fossil gas and electric-resistance models can save $200 to $550 each year. Full of the tech’s ins and outs, this article could have you rethinking your source of hot showers.

5. Income-based electric bills: The newest utility fight in California

Utilities charge customers fixed amounts in order to cover system costs, such as maintaining and expanding distribution grids. In California, the three big utilities are hammering out how to make those fixed fees track with income, so charges fall heaviest on those who can most afford them. The plan is supposed to indirectly drive down electricity prices and promote electrification, but it has drawn considerable heat.

4. New California rules would crush rooftop solar for renters

This summer, California regulators proposed to deeply slash the value of solar for renters, multifamily property owners, farms and schools. To the outrage of solar advocates, officials have since largely adopted those rules — though they softened the blow to renters.

3. Why vertical farming just doesn’t work

For all the hype, farming indoors has been a real bust. As Canary’s Eating the Earth columnist Mike Grunwald puts it, even though LEDs are way cheaper than they used to be, they’re way more expensive than sunlight.” It’s hard to beat free energy.

2. One of the biggest battery recycling plants in the U.S. is up and running

How will the U.S. feed the growing demand for batteries in electric vehicles and on the grid? In Covington, Georgia, a battery recycling plant is chewing up old batteries and spitting out the materials to make new ones. (Plus, Canary visited; take a look!)

1. Portugal just ran on 100% renewables for six days in a row

Readers flocked to this ultimate feel-good story. Julian Spector reported from Portugal on its new clean-power milestone, what it means and what’s next for the country’s renewable energy strategy. Other countries, feel free to take a page from Portugal’s playbook.

What was your favorite Canary story of 2023? Give us a shout on social — X, LinkedIn and Instagram — to let us know. And don’t forget: We’re a nonprofit that relies on donations from our readers who value feisty, incisive and fun journalism on the clean energy transition. If you enjoyed one of our most popular stories this year, donate today.

Alison F. Takemura is staff writer at Canary Media. She reports on home electrification, building decarbonization strategies and the clean energy workforce.