Wirfs-Brock and Boyce won Best News Series in the Rocky Mountain region for their series, “The Solar Challenge,” which explored how the dropping cost of solar panels and the growth in rooftop solar is changing the way electricity is delivered in the United States.
In part one of their three-part series, Boyce visited Del Norte, Colorado, to explore the limitations of using solar panels to power the town during a blackout. In part two, he looked at why utilities are pushing back against consumers wishing to install rooftop solar.
In part three, Wirfs-Brock and Boyce explained the backstory to the current debate over solar power by re-visiting a similar argument over a century ago between Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse about how to structure the electrical grid. Wirfs-Brock’s smart and imaginative data visualizations made the stories come alive online. The story was recently adapted for a live performance:
Guerin also worked with Wirfs-Brock on her story, “Saltwater Spills Leave North Dakota Farmland Sterile For Years,” which won both the Hard News and Investigative Reporting awards for the Upper Midwest region.
Through original data analysis, the two discovered that North Dakota’s oilfield wastewater, or saltwater, spill rate had tripled in the past decade, raising questions about whether the state’s environmental regulations are effective. The pair has continued reporting on spills throughout 2015.
Guerin has also received a first place Midwest Broadcast Journalism Award in the Hard Feature category for her story on saltwater spills.
The reporters would like to thank Inside Energy executive editor Alisa Barba for her thoughtful editing of these stories, and the rest of the fabulous Inside Energy team for their feedback and support. Both stories will now be considered for national Edward R. Murrow Awards, which are given out in June.