Good things are happening! The largest solar energy project in the country comes online, environmental regulators amp up screening for lead contamination in residential areas, labor laws are catching up to an increasingly hot climate, and Chicago is looking to become the first Midwestern city to phase out gas appliances. 

I’m Katherine LiThe Lever’s new editorial fellow, based in California. A recent graduate of the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, I previously covered the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong for The New York Times and wrote about the Asian American and Pacific Islander community for the San Francisco Chronicle. I’ll be bringing you the latest good news every week, as well as reporting on environmental issues.

A Boost Of Clean Energy

Solar energy has been taking big strides to wean the country off fossil fuels. After two years of construction, the country’s largest solar project came online over the past month in California’s Mojave Desert. Not only does it provide a supply of clean energy, it also provides energy storage to bolster the power grid’s resilience and flexibility.

Using two million panels and 400 miles of wires — long enough to run from San Francisco to Las Vegas — the sprawling project stretches across 4,600 acres of private land as well as the Edwards Air Force Base in Kern County. It’s the biggest public-private partnership in which the U.S. Air Force has ever engaged.

Solar is making up an increasing share of the country’s power grid. The country now has enough solar power to generate about five percent of the country’s electricity. Most of the country’s solar panels are utility-scale installations. With the likes of the Mojave desert project taking the lead, the utility sector is now the largest segment of solar power in the country.