Clockwise from top right: An Enviva mill in Virginia manufactures wood pellets; workers install solar panels at a vineyard in Illinois; Pat and Mark Kern on their family farm in southern Illinois; Chicago's Northside neighborhood of Rogers Park. Credit: Ted Blanco; Richard Sitler; Kari Lyndersen; Ryan Koverman

The Energy News Network is taking a break until January 2. In the meantime, here’s a look back at our 10 most-read stories from 2018.

This was a landmark year for the Energy News Network. We’ve started expanding nationwide and have added new staff members in our St. Paul office as well as more reporters based around the country. Our stories are finding new audiences thanks to increased engagement and social media efforts as well as partnerships like our pilot project with the Associated Press, facilitated by the Institute for Nonprofit News.

While we tend to focus on the impact of our work — gathering stories on how journalism is helping to make the world a better place — we also like to keep an eye on the stories that are resonating the most with our readers.

(Also, if you’re reading this before January 1, there’s still time to double your contribution to the Energy News Network with NewsMatch. Thanks to everyone who’s contributed so far!)

And now, here are the ten most-read Energy News Network stories from 2018.

Here’s what Chicago’s new LED street lamps look like from the sky

story by Kevin Stark with photos by Ryan Koverman | The internet positively adored these drone images showing the color contrast between LED street lights and their older counterparts.

Coal mine expansion could swallow family farms in southern Illinois

story and photos by Kari Lydersen | The first of a three-part series explored how a decades-old coal lease could force Illinois farmers off their land. 

Residents divided over wind energy plan for pristine Upper Peninsula wilderness

story by Andy Balaskovitz | A proposed wind project in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is unique in that it largely involves a single landowner — Weyerhaeuser Company, the world’s largest private owner of timberlands. 

Can Sioux tribes pull off largest-ever clean energy project on tribal land?

story by Frank Jossi | The Oglala Sioux in South Dakota are partnering with an established developer on a proposed 500-megawatt wind farm. 

Report: Wood pellet mills threaten public health in North Carolina

story by Elizabeth Ouzts | As the South becomes the largest supplier of biomass pellets to Europe, advocates raise questions about local impacts. 

Nest thermostat

Report: Smart thermostats, electric heat key to hitting climate goals

story by Kevin Stark | A recap of a report by the Rocky Mountain Institute pointing to how home heating can be decarbonized.

In Illinois, blockchain startups seek to work with utilities on grid software

story by Kevin Stark with photos by Lloyd DeGrane | The technology behind cryptocurrencies is still seeking a foothold in the energy industry. 

transmission lines

FirstEnergy won’t say what it’s done with Ohio grid modernization money

story by Kathiann Kowalski | A quarter of a billion dollars from Ohio ratepayers is supposed to have been used to upgrade the grid, but the state’s largest utility is reluctant to provide specifics. 

In North Carolina, renewable energy losing its edge as a political wedge

story by Elizabeth Ouzts | Republican legislators who campaigned on clean energy cruised to victory in primary elections, despite some pushback from their base. 

Solar companies flock to Illinois, bringing jobs, enthusiasm and some questions

story by Kari Lydersen | A sweeping clean energy law passed in 2016 is leading to a solar gold rush in Illinois.

Thanks for reading, and have a great 2019!


Ken is the director of the Energy News Network at Fresh Energy and is a founding editor of both Midwest Energy News and Southeast Energy News. Prior to joining Fresh Energy, he was the managing editor for online news at Minnesota Public Radio. He started his journalism career in 2002 as a copy editor for the Duluth News Tribune before spending five years at the Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Washington, where he worked as a copy editor, online producer, features editor and night city editor. A Nebraska native, Ken has a bachelor's degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a master's degree from the University of Oregon. He is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors.