Developer plans major PV plus battery storage project in Nevada

first_imgDeveloper plans major PV plus battery storage project in Nevada FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Bloomberg:A $1 billion solar project near Las Vegas may help light up the Strip and other parts of Nevada, California and Arizona as early as 2020.The proposed Gemini solar project would be one of the largest in the western U.S., located on almost 44,000 acres of federal land about 25 miles (40 kilometers) northeast of downtown Las Vegas, according to a statement Monday from developer Quinbrook Infrastructure Partners. The company is planning to install 690 megawatts of solar and as much as 200 megawatts of batteries.A key element of the project is the batteries. Solar-storage projects are capable of delivering power when the sun has set. That’s become especially important across the western U.S. With battery costs falling, electricity buyers in California are increasingly seeking solar coupled with batteries as well.“In California, I’d sincerely doubt you’d build a solar project without a battery,” Jeff Hunter, senior managing director of Quinbrook, said in an interview.Quinbrook, with U.S. headquarters in Houston, said an environmental review is expected to be completed next year, with construction slated to begin in the third quarter of 2019. Arevia Power will oversee final development and construction, and the final cost will be dictated by the size of the project’s battery component, Hunter said.Gemini is among a spate of large U.S. solar projects proposed recently, in part to capture governmental incentives before they’re scheduled to wane, said Hugh Bromley, a New York-based analyst at Bloomberg NEF.More: A billion-dollar solar project may help power Las Vegaslast_img read more

Fluence announces largest Canadian battery storage project

first_img FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Energy Storage News:A vast new energy storage system – thought to be the largest of its kind in Canada to date with 48 MW/144 MWh capacity, will be built in the city of Sault Ste Marie, Ontario.Fluence, the venture jointly owned by developer AES Corporation and Siemens, will provide energy storage technology and provide engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) services. The company has signed an agreement for the project with PUC Services, an affiliate of the city’s designated Local Distribution Company (LDC) for electricity, PUC Distribution.The Fluence-PUC partnership will be used to offer energy management solutions to PUC’s biggest customers. Through use of the battery, businesses with a large energy profile should be able to save money on their monthly energy costs.As often reported by this site, Ontario pays for grid upgrades and decarbonisation partly through the Global Adjustment Charge, a peak demand pricing mechanism which levies higher rates on commercial customers than residential. This has led to numerous C&I projects that have been used to ‘peak shave’ businesses’ energy demand from the grid in the province, but nothing on the scale of this latest project announcement to date.Local news outlet The Sault Star carried a report about the project late last week. A Fluence spokesman said today that broadly, the report was correct but did mistakenly state that the capacity was expected to be 45 MW/165 MWh, which the Fluence representative corrected. The report also put some numbers on potential savings businesses could make. Some 357 business customers could save a total of CA$3 million (US$2.29 million) to CA$5 million savings annually between them, amounting to around CA$100 million over the course of the project’s lifetime.   More: Fluence’s latest Ontario project will be 48MW/144MWh for C&I customers Fluence announces largest Canadian battery storage projectlast_img read more

Massachusetts starts process for second 800MW offshore wind purchase

first_imgMassachusetts starts process for second 800MW offshore wind purchase FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享The Herald News:The Baker administration and the state’s utilities are ready to go back to market and put another offshore wind contract out to bid.The state Department of Energy Resources (DOER) and electric distribution companies Eversource, National Grid and Unitil have filed documents with state regulators to initiate a procurement of up to 800 megawatts of offshore wind power, with the goal of executing a final contract by the end of 2019.A 2016 law authorized up to 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind power. Vineyard Wind secured the first contract and is advancing its 800-megawatt project.The timeframe for the next procurement, which is subject to Department of Public Utilities approval, calls for bids to be submitted in August, project selection in November and execution of a long-term contract by the end of the year, enabling the venture that secures the contract to secure federal investment tax credits.The 2016 renewable energy law requires bidders to come in with lower prices in the second procurement, compared to the first, but officials said they are trying to build some “flexibility” into that process because they view Vineyard Wind’s winning bid as reflective of a very competitive price.The offshore wind industry along the Massachusetts coast has the potential to be a more significant sector than “anybody ever imagined or appreciated,” Gov. Charlie Baker said this month, once energy-storage technology is further developed and deployed in tandem with clean energy from wind turbines.More: Mass. sets specifics for second offshore wind procurementlast_img read more

Coal-dependent Polish utility PGE commits to 100% zero emissions by 2050

first_img FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Platts:Poland’s largest utility, PGE Polska Grupa Energetyczna SA, is planning to phase out coal and offer zero emission energy by 2050, CEO Wojciech Dabrowski said Sep. 15.“PGE, as the largest company in the sector, will play a key role in achieving zero emissions by Poland,” Dabrowski said at a Q2 results news conference. “Our strategic aspiration is to offer 100% green energy to PGE customers in 2050.”Dabrowski said the company is working on an updated strategy for release in late autumn that will detail PGE’s green transformation. In the second quarter, 88% of the company’s 13.22 TWh generation was produced in the company’s five lignite and hard-coal-fired plants and two CHPs. Just 5% was generated from renewable sources, the rest from natural gas. PGE is planning to invest huge amounts to have 2.5 GW each in offshore wind and solar capacity by 2030.PGE’s CEO said the company has decided to draw up a transformation plan for the company’s largest plant, the 4.93 GW lignite-fired facility in Belchatow. “Green investments can provide as many or even more jobs than current coal complexes,” he said. Dabrowski said PGE would also replace coal as the “basic fuel” for the company’s CHP and district heating plants with gas.In reaction to the European Commission’s proposal to increase the bloc’s emission cuts from 40% to at least 55% from 1990 levels by 2030, Dabrowski expressed confidence that PGE could cope with such a target and was hoping to access funds from the EU’s Just Transition fund.He said PGE supported the proposal to spin off the coal assets of the country’s three state-controlled utilities to a separate company that would be state-owned in order to help the power companies source funding for their green investments. He said the government had given preliminary agreement to the move and he expected a final decision following the cabinet reshuffle next month.[Adam Easton]More: Poland’s PGE targets zero carbon emissions by 2050: CEO Coal-dependent Polish utility PGE commits to 100% zero emissions by 2050last_img read more

Almost Heaven

first_imgSkip Brown shreds the meadow.We’re so close. We’ve waited all winter for this day: good snow, good wind from the right direction, sunny, not too cold, and we’re about as deep into the West Virginia backcountry as you can get on a road.And we’re stuck in a ditch.The snowplow had turned around miles ago, so we slipped and skidded our pickup almost to the trailhead before sliding into a ditch. Behind the pickup, we’re towing a snow machine, a four-wheeler outfitted with tracks instead of wheels. It’s a cross between a snowmobile and a small tank and it’ll get us into the good stuff if we can ever get it off the trailer.Snow kiting is a colder version of kite boarding, and it’s grown rapidly in recent years. Out West, where there’s a lot of snow and above tree line terrain, the sport has taken off. Here in the East it’s harder to find good kiting locales, and conditions change so fast that you have to jump quickly on a good snowfall.One guy chasing it more than anybody is John Regan. A legend in the whitewater paddling world, John pioneered many now famous class-V rivers, notably West Virginia’s Upper Blackwater. A few seasons ago, John got into snow kiting, and he’s pursued it with the same vigor as his aggressive paddling style. Living in Western Maryland near wide-open hillside fields, John added a kite to his tele skis, got permission from his farmer neighbors, and started a new kind of first descent.After an hour of pushing, pulling, sweating, and cursing, we manage to get out of the ditch and head into the Sinks of Gandy, a high mountain meadow with a celebrated cave and underground stream system in West Virginia.John plants a windsock in the snow, quickly unfolds and launches his foil kite, and within minutes he is a half-mile away, zooming uphill on his tele skis before unleashing turn after turn in powder as he glides back downhill.He then skis over to one of the giant cornices overhanging Gandy Creek. You don’t find too many 30-foot cornices in the Mid-Atlantic, so a jump fest commences with lots of soft landings.I launch my inflatable kite and slide off after John on a snowboard. The wind holds, and we explore the entire valley. There are some thin spots and patches of ice to contend with, but mostly we’re zig zagging across snowfields, going anywhere we want. It takes minutes to kite up hills that would take an hour to hike. Then we knock out a ski-run’s worth of turns in the fresh powder.So it goes till near sundown when the wind starts to ebb. We pack up kites and gear and head home. It’s dark and freezing back at the trailhead, but we’re happy, and the PBRs go down well.last_img read more

Marathon Pursuit (2/3): Going for the Long Run

first_imgMarathon Pursuit (2/3): Going for the Long RunThe day was ambitious indeed. 15 miles is no easy jog in the park. The sore feet and achy knees, the long stretch of road, and the shear amount of time to keep yourself entertained; a lot goes into running the same distance as a 20 minute car ride. The forecast was calling for rain and rain it provided. It seemed the moment I started using the running shoes on my feet, a steady drizzle was there to accompany it. And two hours later, the rain never stopped.Somewhere between the start and end of the 15 miles, discouraging thoughts drifted between my tired legs and weary mind. The hills kept coming and the rain never stopped. For a moment it wasn’t fun. It wasn’t until my shuttle picked me up on the wet road and I climbed into the heated front seat did I began to appreciate the feet at hand.It wasn’t the farthest I’ve run or even the fastest. An inevitable nasally cold followed the 15 miles of running in the rain, but I knew in the back of my head I gone out and done what I had set out to do; go for the long run. I went to sleep easy that night with the day’s progress putting me to bed. I had managed to stay on track. I had crossed a new finish line and with the red-tape behind me, I woke up one day closer to the Big Race (Richmond Marathon, November 10th).Finish LineWith the new sun and the long run the day before, I was able to rest easy and kick my feet up; progress had been made. With running and training for a marathon, progress can be easily measured. Distance and time, that’s all you really need to know. But running, and seeing the value of that progress, allows me to see there are other achievements that get lost in the name of the Big Picture.It is important in marathon training to track your progress so that the 26.2 is just another long run in the history of many. But perhaps that same logic applies outside of the long runs and time on the road. A lot of people have secret ambitions, dreams they have night after night, unnoticed or not, that they strive for in the daytime, a naked ambition that lies under uniforms and clothes. Everyone has this, somewhere deep down and possibly hidden, and the only way to climb higher to your goals is to occasionally look beneath your feet to see how far you’ve come. To take that time to see what you have built and to know you are closer to the clouds then you were a day before.Get outside and play, understand your true-progress, and go for the long run.-Bradlast_img read more

National Forests for Sale

first_imgThe George Washington National Forest is home to the headwaters of the Potomac and James Rivers, which flow through two capital cities, Washington D.C. and Richmond, Va. One of the largest forests in the eastern U.S., it’s more known for its rolling hills blanketed with trees than it is for energy potential. But natural gas drilling, along with hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” could be coming to this wild forest.The U.S. Forest Service originally disallowed horizontal drilling and fracking for natural gas within the George Washington National Forest boundaries. However, after pushback from the natural gas industry, the Forest Service began reconsidering. Hydraulic fracturing is exempt from the Safe Drinking Water Act, and companies do not have to disclose what chemicals they are using in the fluid pumped underground to bring gas to the surface. Some of the chemicals used in the fracking process could contaminate drinking water for many communities and poison some of the GW’s most celebrated rivers for fishing and paddling.We tend to confuse our national forests with our national parks, thinking of them as pristine and unspoiled lands that are protected from commercial usage. But national forests are often subject to the same uses as private land, from cattle grazing to coal mining. Traditionally the most common commercial activity on national forests in the East was logging. Then, during the energy crisis of the 1970s, nearly all national forest lands in the East were leased for gas and oil drilling. Most attempts at conventional drilling came up dry. The gas deposits were too hard to get at using then-known methods. When energy prices began to fall, drilling for natural gas in the East no longer made economic sense.Fast forward 40 years. America finds itself caught in a perpetual energy crisis. Politicians once again want the fuel under our feet, and public lands are seen as our salvation. New forms of drilling have now put the oil and gas resources beneath the Eastern public lands within reach. Much of the region’s drinking water comes from sources with headwaters in protected national forestlands. Will your drinking water soon be laced with fracking chemicals? Will your favorite forest campground or trail soon become a wasteland of wells, towers, and toxic ponds?Fracking 101America’s 21st Century shale gas boom has thrust hydraulic fracturing into the spotlight. “Hydrofracking,” as the process is known, is a catch-all term for a complex two-part method of natural gas extraction.It starts with horizontal drilling. A well bore is drilled vertically for several thousand feet before turning horizontally and continuing for several thousand more. A water and chemical mix is then pumped into the well bore at high pressure. The fluid breaks up the shale rock and releases pockets of natural gas trapped there. Much of the fluids return to the surface and the “flow back” must be kept in containment ponds or hauled off site; the rest seeps into the groundwater.The process of hydraulic fracturing has been used since the 1950s for making conventional vertical wells for oil, gas, and even water. The difference today are new horizontal drilling techniques and the massive amounts of water used—up to one million gallons of water per drilling site. Mixed with the water are toxic cocktail of chemicals—many of which are carcinogenic.Drilling supporters say the process is nearly 50 years old and has been proven safe in many communities in the Midwest. Opponents point to known cases of groundwater contamination and spills, saying fracking threatens water supplies throughout the Southeast.One thing is certain: fracking brings a large-scale industrial operation into wild lands. Roads must be constructed for the trucks that haul in fracking water, and pipelines are built to transport the gas to processing sites. A well pad, including its containment ponds, can cover up to 10 acres. When underway the operation, with its associated noise, light, and traffic, happens around the clock.“The footprint of fracking is larger in scale and more disruptive than logging,” says Sarah Francisco, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center. “With logging, the forest regenerates, and in 100 years the trees will have grown back. But with gas drilling there is a permanent well pad in a permanent clearing.” Fracking usually involves many well sites and a much larger cumulative impact that leaves behind poisonous ponds, toxic waters, and a ruined landscape.ShaleBasins_and_NationalForests_2013May24Click for larger imagePublic Lands, Private ProfitsWho determines if gas drilling takes place in a national forest near you? First, an energy company requests to lease certain national forest lands from the Department of Agriculture, which manages the national forests. The Department of Agriculture then places the land up for competitive bid on a quarterly basis. Anyone can place a bid and the winning bidder gets a 10-year lease to explore for oil and gas. If they discover reserves, they apply for another lease and an extended permit. The government gets a small percent of the profit from the gas extracted.The Southeastern natural gas boom exists in areas that sit over top of the Marcellus shale beds, which include Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky, North Carolina and Tennessee. There are also known gas reserves in the Conasauga shale bed in Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates the Marcellus shale alone contains 262 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas.There are approximately 8 million acres of public land in 17 national forests in the Southeast. Fracking has already occurred in two of these forests and is proposed for at least two more.Pennsylvania has been ground zero in the Eastern fracking debate, sitting on top of the thickest part of the Marcellus formation. The Allegheny National Forest contains 500,000 acres and is home to more than 12,000 gas and oil wells.West Virginia’s Monongahela National Forest’s 921,000 acres are open to drilling; a test well was drilled there recently in the Fernow Experimental Forest. And last year, Alabama’s Talladega National Forest announced that it would lease 43,000 acres for gas drilling.The biggest concern is George Washington National Forest. At over one million acres, the GW is one of the largest undeveloped areas on the East Coast. Recently, the Forest Service began revising its management plan for the GW. Fracking opponents pushed for a prohibition on horizontal drilling in the forest. This was included in a draft of the plan before political and industry pressure forced to it be dropped.“We developed options to allow horizontal drilling on forest land,” said Ken Landgraf, planning officer for George Washington National Forest. “Part of our job is to develop America’s energy resources responsibly.”All national forests are administered by a management plan that is revised every 10 to 15 years. The GW is the first to come up for revision since fracking became prevalent. All eyes are on the GW.“We are in the driver’s seat,” Landgraf stated.A finalized management plan for the GW is scheduled to be announced this month. Meanwhile, other national forests are beginning to revise management plans, and fracking could be a major issue. Two of the most popular national forests in the Southeast—the Pisgah and Nantahala National Forests in North Carolina—are revising their management plans this year.Areas of privately held mineral rights occur in all of the national forests. Ninety-three percent of the land in the Allegheny National Forest has its mineral rights in the hands of private companies. In the GW, 180,000 acres, or about 17 percent of the total land, has its mineral rights in private hands. Seven percent of the Talladega’s and 38 percent of the Monongahela’s acres have privately held mineral rights.When the Forest Service tried to prevent drilling on these leases, they quickly ran into legal challenges. In 2011 a federal appeals court ruled that the Forest Service was misinterpreting its powers and had no authority to control access to private minerals on public lands.“Companies have rights to their minerals [on private leases] and we cannot stop them,” Landgraf says. “But they do have to work with us [the Forest Service] jointly because they are using our surface.”David and Goliath: Communities Take on Big GasWith political will and industry money pushing for gas drilling in the national forests, what options do people who enjoy public lands and oppose fracking have?In 2011 Carrizo Energy, a Houston-based company, applied for a drilling permit for a lease on private land in Rockingham County in the heart of Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. The state quickly approved the permit. The county board of supervisors also seemed on the verge of signing off on the project. Then outdoor enthusiasts and local residents learned about the proposed well. They launched a campaign to educate the board and the community on the potential hazards of fracking. They were successful. The board tabled the permit, effectively preventing fracking on private lands in the county, which would include private mineral rights in the George Washington National Forest in Rockingham County.Then in 2012, when Alabama’s Talladega National Forest announced it would sell fracking leases, outdoor enthusiasts vocally opposed it. The Southern Environmental Law Center filed litigation under the Endangered Species Act, and in June 2012, the Forest Service announced it would delay the gas lease sale.It’s hard to say whether environmentalists won an outright victory or energy companies backed away from a fight in areas where gas production was uncertain. Nearby test wells in both areas failed to produce up to expectation. One thing is for sure: as the price of energy increases, supplies of petroleum dwindle, and technology improves, energy companies will keep the national forests of the Southeast in their crosshairs.Wanna find out the latest news on fracking plans for the George Washington National Forest? Visit read more


first_img Geoff Cantrell, Public Communications Specialist at Western Carolina University shared his thoughts on WCU’s victory. CLICK HERE TO VOTE FOR THE 2020 WINNER Amidst this backdrop of Appalachian peaks, crystal clear trout streams and world class rivers, and seemingly endless singletrack, WCU has cultivated an outdoor culture that only gets richer with each passing school year. Cantrell:I would say three things: “Over a half-million votes poured into Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine’s Top Adventure Contest — the most ever in its seven-year history. Once again, Western Carolina rallied its students, faculty, staff, and alumni to a decisive victory. WCU boasts a premier location for outdoor adventure—with world-class whitewater, climbing crags, and hundreds of miles of trails in national parks and national forests surrounding the campus. It also offers outstanding outdoor education and adventure opportunities, such as Base Camp Cullowhee. Most importantly, perhaps, Western has a dedicated, outdoor-minded campus community that promotes and celebrates adventure. It’s not surprising that WCU has captured its fifth Top Adventure College title. They’ve definitely earned it. “–—Will Harlan, Editor in Chief BRO: Votes hit record numbers for our annual Top Adventure College Contest this year. Over half a million! How does it feel to be a part of the biggest voting year yet? Once again colleges and universities in the contest were selected for their outdoor clubs and curricula, their commitment to outdoor and environmental initiatives, the quality of their outdoor athletes and programs, and their opportunities for adventure, and once again WCU’s strengths shown through above the rest. BRO: What makes WCU stand out from the rest? What is its greatest and most unique quality? BRO: What percentage of the school’s population participates in taking advantage of WCU’s ideal outdoor surroundings? Second, opportunities. Base Camp Cullowhee, the university’s outdoor programming organization, offers equipment rentals, events and programs, recreational trips and experiential education services. Student clubs and organizations also provide outdoor excursions for members. Then there’s the topnotch curriculum available. Among the academic programs offered by WCU of interest to students pursuing careers in the outdoors are forest resource management, hospitality and tourism management, natural resources conservation and management, and parks and recreation management. Cantrell: Wow, that is a tremendous response, and good for Blue Ridge Outdoors magazine. Winning the online poll shows that Western Carolina University participates and is proud of our outdoor adventures, our campus, and the region. BRO: How has WCU grown since the first year they won? center_img And third, involvement. WCU supports regional outdoors-based travel, tourism and industry, and the entities that are destinations for residents and visitors alike. For example, on Oct. 10, WCU will hold an Outdoor Economy Conference as the region’s premier outdoor industry and networking event to support businesses and entrepreneurs. Western Carolina University has further proven itself to be a force to be reckoned with in the outdoor community. The Catamounts have earned the title of Top Adventure College for a fifth time in our annual Top Adventure College Contest, edging out a solid effort from last years winner Lees-McRae College. Cantrell: Potentially, everyone. We know from invitations to participate and other publicity, students, faculty and staff are engaged in birdwatching, organic gardening and more vigorous pursuits like hiking and mountain biking. When the weather warms, students stretch out in a hammock at WCU’s Electron Garden on the Green, a solar power-generating facility and green space on campus with a multifunctional design that includes outdoors relaxation. There are academic programs that utilize the outdoors, like recreational therapy, geology, and Cherokee studies. Some training and exercises that are outdoor-oriented take place indoors, like our climbing wall and kayak roll clinics. So, really, enjoying the outdoors is an individual thing in how you choose to participate. Then you can find a group or network to pursue it if you’d like. First, location, location, location. The Cullowhee campus is in a natural setting that has many great things to offer, with a short list including the Blue Ridge Parkway, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Pisgah and Nantahala national forests, Chimney Rock and Gorges state parks, DuPont State Forest and numerous lakes, rivers and creeks. There’s a natural environment for practically anything you want to experience. Cantrell: If you had to point to only one activity or event that brings everyone together and is representative of this university and its connection to the outdoors, it would probably be the Tuck River Cleanup. On Saturday, April 13, the 35th annual cleanup will take place, with hundreds of volunteers expected to raft or walk along the Tuckaseigee River between Cullowhee and Whittier, collecting litter and debris. It is believed to be the nation’s largest single-day effort to remove garbage from a waterway. BRO: What outdoor program is WCU most proud of? BRO: Describe what downtime looks like for an outdoor enthusiast at WCU. Cantrell: Entering the 2018 fall semester, WCU for the third consecutive year and the seventh time in the past eight years has increased in both the size, with an 11,639 fall enrollment to be exact, and academic qualifications of the student body. University officials attribute the enrollment surge over the past several years to several factors, including several high-demand degree programs, new and renovated residence halls and dining facilities providing the type of amenities demanded by today’s students, and as you might have guessed, the campus’s mountain location and access to outdoor adventure activities. One reason that WCU is revered as a top outdoor college is its proximity to renowned outdoors adventure havens like Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Pisgah and Nantahala National Forests. Cantrell: Downtime? What downtime?last_img read more

On Our Backs, Bikes, and Boats

first_imgEllen: In comparison to other packrafting and bikepacking trips out there, ours was not that extreme. But that’s okay. It doesn’t have to include days of climbing gravel or paddling whitewater to still be an adventure. We spent two days immersed in the sights and sounds of the Lower James and Richmond, two days away from our phones and constant emails, two days of friends connecting outside. Even if some of that “nature” included a pack of raw sausage floating in the river, I’d call it an absolute success. Shannon: Before I came to work at BRO, I was an outdoor guide and paddling instructor for years. Outdoor adventure was all I did for a while, so I was very excited to jump back into the process of getting out there. It was thrilling for my brain to go into planning mode again as it started flooding with thoughts of gear, supplies, strategies, and plans A through Z. Before this trip I had done plenty of overnight paddling and biking trips, but never both at the same time.  Day 2: After breaking down our campsite in the morning, we paddled an additional 4.5 miles to our take out at Deep Bottom Park. To finish off our adventure, we biked the Virginia Capital Trail for 15 miles back into Richmond, stopping for a beer at Stone Brewing. We road another 4 miles back to Shannon’s apartment, arriving back home just as the sun set below the Richmond skyline. A Self-Supported, Multi-Sport Adventure Right Out the Front Door When it comes to deciding what sleeping bag to bring, it’s all about the temperature rating. Knowing that we were going in the middle of March and would be sleeping by the water, we went with bags with a 20-degree temperature limit. Both the Tacquito 20 and Nitro Quilt 800 from Sierra Designs fit our hammocks and provided the warmth we needed. Whether you go with a sleeping bag or a quilt, it is all up to your preference and sleep style. If you prefer tent camping, the Granby Insulated Sleeping Pad provides an excellent layer of insulation between your sleeping bag and the ground. The bike ride was so much fun, both the actual ride itself and the great reward it offered in knowing you just did something really hard. Finishing our bike ride at Stone Brewery for a delicious beer and Nightingale ice cream sandwich was a pretty nice reward too.   COVID-19 hit the U.S. hard in mid-March and we started practicing social distancing. We cancelled our plans to avoid traveling and potentially spreading the virus. And we haven’t seen each other (in person) since. Although we didn’t get to test out our skills in Asheville, we will be ready to take what we’ve learned with us on our next trip into the great outdoors. The Payoff: That Was Totally Wicked The Planning: It’s All in the Details The bike mechanic at Blue Ridge Cyclery worked with us for over an hour to find the best setup for our bikes so we could carry all of our gear, including  a bike rack, extra tubes, a new repair kit, and some chain lube. They have it all. The rear bike rack was a huge lifesaver when Ellen’s saddle bag didn’t fit because she needed the seat all the way down!  Almost done paddling! The Itinerary: City to Woods Ellen: I didn’t sleep very much the night before we left. I was too anxious, worrying that we had forgotten to pack some really important piece of gear or that the temperature would suddenly drop into the teens. But within a few minutes of getting on our bikes, I started to feel that anxiety give way to the excitement of heading out on an adventure. We left Shannon’s apartment while most of the city was still sleeping, so we practically had the streets to ourselves. Looking back on our trip, it’s weird to think that we wouldn’t get to hang out with each other in person for a couple of months. When I left Shannon’s apartment, I told her I would see her in the office next week. Instead, that Monday, everyone in our office started working from home. Bamboo Elements from UCO Gear Shannon: The trip was long, challenging, and very rewarding. We had beautiful weather and the boats were easy to paddle, even with all of our gear. It was funny we chose this section for an outdoor adventure trip because, even though we did get to enjoy nature up close, we also got to experience some heavy-duty industrial structures that are easy to forget exist. We saw just as many barges and factories as we did birds and turtles. Big ass factories with signs warning us “Strong undertow. Back TF up.” We must have considered over 10 different trips on rivers from Virginia to Georgia! For a while, it didn’t feel like we were getting any closer to making a decision until one day we realized a Richmond trip was the ideal practice trip. I am familiar with the area, we could easily call for help if needed, and the fact that we could take a safe and scenic bike path back was great.   [metaslider id=128122 cssclass=””] TR1 Mesh W’s from Astral Our take off was a little clumsy as we needed to make slight adjustments to the bags that we stayed up late to attach the night before. It felt like the beginning of a comedic music montage where the inspirational music starts, then stops, then starts, then stops one more time, then finally we were off to the river. With a trip like this, we wanted shoes we could wear for paddling and biking so we wouldn’t have to pack two separate pairs. Astral’s TR1 Mesh W’s fit our needs perfectly. They are lightweight, dry easily, and provide excellent support. For paddling, we wore them with a pair of wool socks to keep our toes warm. PRO TIP: Figure out what needs you have for your trip and list them in order from top priority to low priority. Then see how different trips fit those needs. For each river we looked at, we had to consider how we would get there, camping spots, the river’s navigability, and what the traffic would look like on the bike routes. Since we put that work in, we have a bunch of ‘draft adventures’ that we can look at in the future! Ellen getting out of the water after the first day. Ellen: After 18 miles of paddling, I expected the biking to be no sweat. The majority of our miles would be on a paved greenway, so I wasn’t worried about traffic. But I had never ridden with anything other than a water bottle strapped to my bike. You really start to regret every ounce of gear you packed when you’re trying to pedal it up a hill. JungleLink Hammock Shelter System and Ember UnderQuilt from ENO Bike parts from Blue Ridge Cyclery Ellen: I am usually the one afraid of the dark. When I’m out camping, I try not to think about all of the other creatures I’m sharing the space with. Shannon was NOT playing it cool.  Shannon: I slept well in the hammock thankfully, but I woke up very sore from all the paddling we did the day before. We had a short day of 4 miles and were eager to knock it out and get on our bikes. Our put-in maneuvering was much more graceful than the day before. After just a two-day trip we came out feeling like pros in boat launching, gear tie downs, and packing. The second day of paddling offered more wildlife and natural views then the day before. We even saw a few eagles! Shannon showing off our paddling setup. The Bamboo Elements mess kit from UCO Gear comes with a bowl/container, lid/plate, spork set, and reusable tether, perfect for whatever backcountry meal you’re cooking up. Everything fits together so that you don’t lose any of the pieces. Ellen is ready to get this trip started. Rogue-lite from Kokopelli We were the only ones at our campsite and had a really nice view of the James. Though as the sun started to go down, being the only ones there started to get in my head. The big stone cross got eerier and the idea of camping next to a settlement from the 1600s got spookier. I swore I kept hearing something in the woods a few times! But I didn’t want to force my spooks onto Ellen. I thought I was playing it cool enough that she wouldn’t notice I was being a chicken. I kept shining my light into the woods anytime I would hear something just to prove to myself that it was nothing. So, you can imagine my surprise when my flashlight eventually landed on a pair of eyes that was just feet from our camp! Once we got to our put in at Ancarrow’s Boat Landing, we spent about 45 minutes figuring out how to attach our broken-down bikes to these inflatable rafts along with all of our gear. I remember thinking “awesome, that looks great! Now where TF is my butt going to go.” Once we got everything tied down and situated, we exchanged a celebratory high five and a few moments of “hell ya we got this we are such capable badass women!” Now came the moment we’d been waiting for… the takeoff.  Shannon: After we got our sorry butts out of the water we stood before a long, paved ramp that led to the top of a huge hill where our campsite would be. I may be exaggerating how big this hill was, but after paddling 13 miles, looking at the amount of gear we would have to carry, my frozen hands, and Ellen’s injured ankle, that hill looked like Everest. After carrying everything to the top we were rewarded with a heated bathroom and hand dryers we could stand under! Score! After changing into warm dry clothes, we hung our hammocks, fashioned our ‘raccoon’ bag, and started cooking dinner. The Adventure: 18 Miles of Paddling and 24 Miles of Biking Shannon: The early morning take off of any adventure is my favorite part. The air is cool and crisp, the world still feels asleep, and you have a whole adventure ahead of you that will be filled with good stories and lasting memories. Plus, you get to look forward to how toned your muscles are going to feel after you complete the whole trip. Our wacky bike setup. Pro tip: lose the giant camera and use your phone. Day 1: We left the Fan District in Richmond around 7:30 a.m with all of our gear on our bikes. After riding 4.5 miles to our put-in at Ancarrow’s Boat Landing, we broke down our bikes and strapped everything to our boats. Then we paddled 13 miles down the Lower James River, past industrial parks and under towering bridges, to our campsite at Henricus Historical Park. There, we set up our hammocks, made a delicious pot roast dinner from a can, and spent a peaceful night amongst the trees.  Ellen: The paddle started out great. The sun was shining with a nice breeze at our backs. We made pretty good time in the morning, stopping for lunch on the bank. And then the winds shifted and so did our luck. While we were finishing up our lunch, the current lifted my boat from the beach and started carrying it away. As we chased after it, I stepped in a hole and twisted my ankle. As I go down, I’m yelling at Shannon to leave me and save the boat! Through some masterful maneuvering, she got in her boat and herded mine back to shore. Now the second half of the day was a real struggle, paddling into the wind and racing the sunset. I almost started crying when we finally pulled into the cove and spotted our take out.  There’s a point on the Virginia Capital Trail as you start your descent into Richmond where the city skyline spreads out before you, welcoming you back from your journey. As we crested that hill, pedaling the last few miles home as the sun began to sink below the horizon, we felt that overwhelming sense of pride that comes from setting a goal and accomplishing it. Nothing but satisfaction from two days of hard work, and maybe a tiny bit of relief that we would be sleeping in our own beds that night.   The Gear That Got Us Here We tip toed around the water’s edge and tried to finagle getting in without getting our feet wet. We were so ready for this big epic takeoff into the sunrise, and the extra time we put into staying dry added to the buildup. Careful… steady… PLUNK! Our butts plunked deep down into our boats causing a splash and zero forward momentum.  Because I stored my dry bags in between my legs, my right foot spent the first four miles fully under water until I realized it was dragging.   When we first started planning this trip, we thought it was going to be about us—two friends planning a trip outside of their comfort zone while experiencing Richmond, Va., in a new way. The inflatable Rogue-lite from Kokopelli was the perfect vessel for our packrafting adventure. It easily held the weight of our bikes and gear while also rolling up tight for easy attachment to our handlebars. When planning a trip like this, easy transition from bike to boat back to bike is key. The lightweight Feather air pump quickly inflated the boats in a matter of minutes. The Rogue-lite also comes with a Tizip option, increasing your storage space inside the packraft. Thank you to the folks at Kokopelli who shared the ins and outs of packrafting. Every adventurer knows that being prepared for any scenario can make all the difference. We packed all of our gear, clothes, and food into dry bags so they would stay dry on the river and in case of rain. Here are a few pieces of gear that made a difference on our trip. You see, this excursion was supposed to be a warm-up, a trial run for bigger things. We would only be gone one night, we wouldn’t have to paddle any rapids, and a majority of the biking would be on a paved greenway. This trip would give us the chance to test out all of our gear and make any changes before attempting a longer adventure. Once we figured out all of the kinks, we planned to do a similar trip in Asheville, N.C., paddling a section of the French Broad River and then biking back into the city. But we never got the chance. Ellen: As BRO’s travel editor, I write a lot about epic adventurers—hardcore athletes attempting ridiculous feats on the road, trails, and water. I am more of a fair-weather adventurer. I like hiking when the sun is out, a refreshing three-mile paddle on a summer’s day, and a bike ride around my neighborhood. When Shannon and I first started talking about doing a combo packrafting and bikepacking trip, I was a little apprehensive because I had never paddled or biked that far on one trip. But having Shannon with me, who has a lot more experience with changing flat tires and reading the water, helped ease my mind. While we lucked out and avoided rain, Topo’s Global Jacket kept us warm during the chilly mornings and dry on the river. We stored phones, maps, and sunglasses in the many pockets. The water-resistant finish and stretchy waste line on the Boulder Pants made them the perfect pants for a variety of outdoor activities or just lounging around the campsite. Taquito 20 and Nitro Quilt 800/20 from Sierra Designs We decided to take a hammock sleep system so we wouldn’t have to pack tent poles. The ENO JungleLink Hammock Shelter System came with everything we needed to sleep through the night, including a rain tarp and built-in bug net. The Ember UnderQuilt added a layer of insulation to the outside of our hammocks to keep us warm from the breeze coming off of the river. You know those videos of the astronauts getting out of their capsules after splashdown? The ones where they have to be helped out of the capsule by the divers? That’s how I felt getting out of the boat the first day after 13 miles of paddling. There was a family fishing off the dock at Henricus Historical Park, where we would be camping for the night. These amazing folks, the true heroes of this adventure, helped pull us and our rafts onto the dock as our muscles were screaming for us to give up. I don’t know how we would have gotten ourselves and all of our gear out of the water if they hadn’t been there, especially as we barely made it to our campsite before the sun completely set. Why did we think it was a good idea to paddle 13 miles on the first day?   The idea was to design and complete a trip that was entirely self-supported. There would be no cars dropping us off at the boat ramp or shuttling us back home. We wanted to ride out the front door with nothing but our gear supported on our backs, bikes, and boats, and return the same way. And while we did accomplish that, paddling 18 miles of the Lower James River and biking 15 miles of the Virginia Capital Trail, it feels wrong to say that’s all it was. Earlier this year BRO Travel Editor Ellen Kanzinger and Digital Content Coordinator Shannon McGowan took a combined packrafting and bikepacking trip on the Lower James River and Virginia Capital Trail. Follow the journey, with insight on essential gear and what they learned along the way.  For most of our trip, we could see a road or highway. It was surreal to see society yet feel completely disconnected from it. I am so glad that we got to have such a fun trip together before entering this new way of life… And that the nickname “Ellen Bean” (inspired by Ellen’s small size and the toughness she shares with my L.L. Bean bike) came out of the trip.  Global Jacket and Boulder Pants from Topo last_img read more