Clockwise from top left: The first of 12 solar projects planned for the Red Lake Reservation sits atop the Red Lake Government Center; a worker installs solar panels in Dungannon, Virginia; the Gotham Greens greenhouse is one of several environmentally friendly projects located in the Pullman neighborhood of Chicago. Credit: Clean Energy Economy Minnesota courtesy photo; Jimmy Davidson, Appalachian Voices; Gotham Greens courtesy photo

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It hardly bears repeating that 2020 has been a challenging year. A historic pandemic that has killed hundreds of thousands and devastated countless others, police killings that ignited an overdue national reckoning on systemic racism, and a divisive election that threatened to erode the very foundation of democracy continue to weigh on our hearts and minds as the year draws to the close.

But in the midst of all of this, there are still stories of hope and resilience, and throughout 2020, Energy News Network reporters have been diligently working to highlight people who are committed to meeting the challenge of building a better world.

And so — while we acknowledge and hold close the pain that this year has brought — we’d like to highlight some of these stories. Thank you to all of our readers and supporters; we look forward to seeing you again in 2021.

Sustainable aviation fuels could soon take flight: While air travel represents only a small portion of overall carbon emissions, it is also one of the most intractable problems to solve. Midwestern innovators are developing biofuel solutions that could help close that gap.

Collaborative European study offers hope for fishing, offshore wind industries: As offshore wind developers grapple over potential impacts on New England’s valuable fisheries, a recent European study provides a template for how the two industries can work together.

A sustainable focus helps a historic Chicago community rebuild: On Chicago’s Far South Side, the former company town of Pullman is pivoting from heavy industry to green development — and seeing payoffs in job growth and overall community revitalization.

Innovative geothermal micro-district concept moves ahead in Massachusetts: While geothermal systems are not a new concept, an innovative geothermal model in Massachusetts aims to slash fossil fuel use while providing an economic transition for gas utilities and their workers. 

Crowdfunded solar puts Red Lake Nation on a path to sustainability: The first solar installations in Minnesota to be financed through crowdfunding are part of an emerging model to use solar, microgrids, and a tribal-run utility as a path to energy sovereignty for the Red Lake Nation. 

Appalachian solar effort a reality after backers powered through setbacks: After five-plus years in pursuit of affordable solar power in Virginia’s historic coalfield region, the ambitious undertaking is moving forward.

Wind turbine blade recycler trying to fit the pieces together at Iowa factory: Wind turbine blades take up space but don’t pose a particular environmental threat when placed in landfills. Still, the industry is trying to move toward greater recyclability.

Meet the young people pushing Maine forward on climate change: This group of young people are simultaneously pushing state leaders to move more aggressively on climate policy and educating adults about the disproportionate impact people of color face from climate change.

This Chicagoan is on a mission to help auto dealers sell electric vehicles: To promote the widespread adoption of electric vehicles, dealers need to be knowledgeable and supportive of them. Chicagoan Neda Deylami is helping salespeople learn more.

North Carolina elections left ‘status quo’ in power, but some still see hope for clean energy: The North Carolina General Assembly likely won’t enact the full-throated, economy-wide response to the climate crisis that activists had wished for. But many clean energy businesses and nonprofits remain hopeful about their chances in 2021.

Ken Paulman

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.