Category Archives: Climate Change & Energy

Skyhawk air conditioners, new homes, overwhelm electrical grid

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

A normally quiet east Santa Rosa street has been turned into a noisy power station to meet the growing power demand by large, air-conditioned homes and new development that threatened to overwhelm the area’s power grid.

Pacific Gas and & Electric set up a series of mobile power generators on Great Heron Drive in the Skyhawk neighborhood last week after power went out to 109 customers in the area Aug. 31, PG&E spokeswoman Deanna Contreras said.

Worried by a forecast that called for triple-digit temperatures over the Labor Day weekend, the utility wanted to make sure it could keep the lights and air conditioners on in the area, she said. The mercury ended up hitting a new record of 110 degrees in Santa Rosa last Saturday.

The neighborhood of mostly larger single-family homes built in the 1980s and 1990s had an undersized electric infrastructure that was stressed when people turned on their central air conditioners.

Read more at: PG&E installs temporary substation on Santa Rosa street | The Press Democrat –

Filed under Climate Change & Energy, Land Use

Op-Ed: It’s a fact: climate change made Hurricane Harvey more deadly 

Michael Mann, THE GUARDIAN

What can we say about the role of climate change in the unprecedented disaster that is unfolding in Houston with Hurricane Harvey? There are certain climate change-related factors that we can, with great confidence, say worsened the flooding. What we know so far about tropical storm Harvey Read more Sea level rise attributable to climate change – some of which is due to coastal subsidence caused by human disturbance such as oil drilling – is more than half a foot (15cm) over the past few decades (see here for a decent discussion). That means the storm surge was half a foot higher than it would have been just decades ago, meaning far more flooding and destruction.

In addition to that, sea surface temperatures in the region have risen about 0.5C (close to 1F) over the past few decades from roughly 30C (86F) to 30.5C (87F), which contributed to the very warm sea surface temperatures (30.5-31C, or 87-88F).

There is a simple thermodynamic relationship known as the Clausius-Clapeyron equation that tells us there is a roughly 3% increase in average atmospheric moisture content for each 0.5C of warming. Sea surface temperatures in the area where Harvey intensified were 0.5-1C warmer than current-day average temperatures, which translates to 1-1.5C warmer than “average” temperatures a few decades ago. That means 3-5% more moisture in the atmosphere.

That large amount of moisture creates the potential for much greater rainfalls and greater flooding. The combination of coastal flooding and heavy rainfall is responsible for the devastating flooding that Houston is experiencing.

Not only are the surface waters of the Gulf of Mexico unusually warm right now, but there is a deep layer of warm water that Harvey was able to feed upon when it intensified at near record pace as it neared the coast. Human-caused warming is penetrating down into the ocean. It’s creating deeper layers of warm water in the Gulf and elsewhere.

Read more at: It’s a fact: climate change made Hurricane Harvey more deadly | Michael E Mann | Opinion | The Guardian

Filed under Climate Change & Energy

California has a climate problem, and its name is cars

David Roberts, VOX

In 2006, California passed its groundbreaking climate legislation AB 32, which put in place a target for greenhouse gas reductions and set in motion a cascade of regulations, subsidies, and performance standards that has continued unabated ever since.

Three years after that, in 2009, a nonprofit advocacy organization called Next 10 teamed up with the research firm Beacon Economics to track the state’s progress in a detailed annual report called the California Green Innovation Index.

The ninth edition of the CGII has just been released, and it offers a good opportunity to reflect on how California has done so far and, more importantly, to grapple with the big challenge that lies just ahead.

To put it as simply as possible: California’s experience shows that decarbonizing the electricity sector is both possible and profitable, but to reach its ambitious carbon targets, the state will now have to decarbonize transportation — which brings a whole new and daunting set of difficulties.

As has so often been the case, California is a few steps ahead of the rest of the country in this, offering a preview of things to come. The state’s biggest decarbonization problem — cars — will soon become the nation’s.

Read more at: California has a climate problem, and its name is cars – Vox

Filed under Climate Change & Energy, Transportation

Santa Rosa begins installing solar panels on parking garage roofs

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Santa Rosa has begun installing nearly a thousand solar panels atop four city parking garages, modules that will both shade vehicles from the sun and reduce the city’s energy costs.

“I’m excited to see a much smaller PG&E bill,” said Luke Morse, the city’s parking supervisor as he helped organize the delivery of the panels on Tuesday.

A huge crane began hoisting the photovoltaic panels and the steel canopies that will support them onto garage roofs Tuesday morning.

If all goes well, the installations should take about a month per garage, with the project completed in a few months.

The city estimates the $1.4 million project will pay for itself in about 11 years and save $1.4 million in power costs over the 25-year life of the arrays.

That should help the city achieve about 10 percent of its 2020 greenhouse gas emission reduction target, said Kim Nadaeu, parking district manager.

Read more at: Santa Rosa begins installing solar panels on parking garage roofs | The Press Democrat

Filed under Climate Change & Energy

Zipcar coming to Santa Rosa

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Santa Rosa residents who don’t want to own a car but might like to zip around in one sometimes are in luck — Zipcar, the nation’s largest car-sharing company, is coming to town.

The City Council today is expected to sign off on a deal allowing the company to operate two of its rental cars from city parking lots — one at the downtown SMART train and the other next to the Russian River Brewery.

The hope is that the service will give people yet another reason kick their fossil-fuel burning cars to the curb in favor of more environmentally friendly options like bicycling or public transportation.

“We’re looking for ways to reduce vehicle miles traveled and the car-share concept is a way to allow people to eliminate car ownership, or at least reduce the number of miles they need to drive,” said Kim Nadeau, the city’s parking manager.

The service, which began in the Boston area in 2000, is already available in 500 cities around the nation. After a period of rapid growth, the company was sold in 2013 for $500 million to Avis Budget Group. The company first rolled into Sonoma County in March 2016, when it began renting out two cars at Sonoma State University.

The expansion to Santa Rosa was made possible by a $170,130 grant from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission to the Sonoma County Transportation Authority providing subsidies to Zipcar and SCTA for administration of the program for two years.

Read more at: Zipcar coming to Santa Rosa | The Press Democrat

Filed under Climate Change & Energy, Transportation

Op-Ed: Cap-and-trade funds to support creative rural solutions

Paul Dolan and Renata Brillinger, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Overview from the CALCAN (California Climate and Agriculture Network) website:

Climate Smart Agriculture Programs – The state of California currently has four Climate Smart Agriculture programs that provide resources for California farmers and ranchers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and store carbon in soils and trees, while providing multiple benefits to agriculture and the environment. The programs are funded with proceeds from the state’s cap-and-trade program.

Healthy Soils Initiative – The Healthy Soils Initiative was proposed by Governor Brown in 2015 and received initial funding of $7.5 million in 2016. The Initiative provides funding for farmer and rancher incentives to increase carbon storage in soils and reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions through practices that build healthy soil such as compost application, cover crop, reduced tillage, conservation plantings and more. The program will also fund on-farm demonstration projects to provide growers, researchers and other ag professionals strategies for mitigating climate change in agriculture.

State Water Efficiency & Enhancement Program (SWEEP) – The program funds growers to improve their irrigation management practices to save water and energy and reduce related greenhouse gas emissions. Eligible project activities include pump upgrades and solar pump installation; conversion to drip or micro irrigation; improved water storage and/or recycling, soil moisture monitoring and irrigation scheduling.

Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation Program (SALCP) – The program funds local government projects and permanent easements on agricultural lands at risk of development to prevent sprawl.

Dairy Digester Research and Development Program (DDRDP) – The program funds dairy digesters and related research to reduce methane emissions from the dairy sector. A portion of the funding will be allocated in 2017 to a new program called the Alternative Manure Management Program (AMMP).

Gov. Jerry Brown recently signed Assembly Bill 398, which extends cap-and-trade, California’s cornerstone climate change program, through 2030. The program requires the largest emitters of greenhouse gas emissions (e.g., the oil and gas industry, cement plants, large food processors) to cut their emissions. Without putting a price on carbon, we are unlikely to meet our climate change goals, the most ambitious in the country.

The state Legislature and governor will now debate how to budget billions of dollars in cap-and-trade revenue. In the past three years, California has invested more than $3 billion of cap-and-trade funds in our communities to accelerate the transition toward a clean energy economy. In January, Governor Brown proposed an additional $2.2 billion for the 2017-18 fiscal year.

To date, the money has been invested across California on projects that reduce emissions by weatherizing homes, installing solar panels, improving public transportation, building transit-oriented housing and more. In addition to these urban strategies, the state has also embraced sustainable agricultural solutions to climate change.

Since 2014, nearly $200 million has been granted to farmers and ranchers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to store carbon on their land. The country’s first Climate Smart Agriculture programs are demonstrating to the world that farmers and ranchers can be leaders in climate innovation.

Read more at: Close to Home: Cap-and-trade funds need to support creative rural solutions, like those on the North Coast | The Press Democrat

Filed under Agriculture/Food System, Climate Change & Energy, Land Use, Water

Chile’s energy transformation is powered by wind, sun and volcanoes 

Ernesto Londoño, THE NEW YORK TIMES

Cerro Pabellón, Chile — It looks and functions much like an oil drilling rig. As it happens, several of the men in thick blue overalls and white helmets who operate the hulking machine once made a living pumping crude.

But now they are surrounded by snowcapped volcanoes, laboring to breathe up here at 14,760 feet above sea level as they draw steam from the earth at South America’s first geothermal energy plant.

With the ability to power roughly 165,000 homes, the new plant is yet another step in Chile’s clean energy transformation. This nation’s rapidly expanding clean energy grid, which includes vast solar fields and wind farms, is one of the most ambitious in a region that is decisively moving beyond fossil fuels.

Latin America already has the world’s cleanest electricity, having long relied on dams to generate a large share of its energy needs, according to the World Bank.

But even beyond those big hydropower projects, investment in renewable energy in Latin America has increased 11-fold since 2004, nearly double the global rate, according to a 2016 report by the International Renewable Energy Agency, an intergovernmental organization. Chile, Mexico and Brazil are now among the top 10 renewable energy markets in the world.

So as Latin America embraces greener energy sources, government officials and industry executives in the region have expressed a sense of confusion, even bewilderment, with the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from the climate change commitments contained in the Paris Agreement, declare an end to the “war on coal” and take aim at American environmental regulations.

Read more at: Chile’s Energy Transformation Is Powered by Wind, Sun and Volcanoes – The New York Times

Filed under Climate Change & Energy

New electric car for less than $10,000? Sonoma County makes it happen

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

How about a shiny new electric car for less than $10,000?

Price has long been a concern for motorists interested in ending their relationship with petroleum, and Sonoma Clean Power, the not-for-profit public electricity provider for Sonoma and Mendocino counties, is bringing the cost of electric vehicles down to clearance-sale levels.

The second year of the agency’s Drive EverGreen electric vehicle (EV) incentive program — on now through Oct. 31 — offers deals on nine models sold and leased by seven local dealers, ranging in base price from a $51,095 BMW i3 down to a Volkswagen e-Golf listed at $28,995.

The e-Golf, a hatchback with a 124-mile range, comes with a $7,000 dealer credit and a $2,000 Sonoma Clean Power incentive for the average utility customer, plus the possibility of a $2,500 state rebate and a $7,500 federal tax credit. The incentive package, which totals $19,000, slashes the price to $9,995.

“It’s a smokin’ deal,” said Cordel Stillman, director of programs for Sonoma Clean Power, which delivers electricity to 600,000 customers in the two North Bay counties.

But it can get even better for power customers who live in the Northern Sonoma County Air Pollution Control District, which offers an additional $3,000 incentive in a parallel program called 3-2-1 Go Green. The district covers about 60,000 residents in western and northern Sonoma County.

For Sonoma Clean Power customers who qualify for all the incentives, including a full federal tax credit as well as low-income bonuses, the cost of the e-Golf sinks to $4,495.

Read more at: New electric car for less than $10,000? Sonoma County makes it happen | The Press Democrat

Filed under Climate Change & Energy, Transportation

California eyes bigger rebates for electric cars

David R. Baker, SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE

California has far more electric cars and plug-in hybrids plying its roads than any other state — about 300,000 so far. But they’re still just a tiny fraction of auto sales.

Now, legislation in Sacramento is designed to juice the market, just as a new generation of long-range electric cars hits showroom floors.

A bill from Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, would revamp and expand California’s existing rebate program for people who buy electrics or plug-in hybrids. The bill, a version of which has already passed the Assembly, would devote $3 billion to clean car incentives. The money would come from the state’s cap-and-trade system for controlling greenhouse gas emissions.

The new rebates would start big — how big has yet to be determined — and then shrink over time, as plug-in cars become more common and affordable. Eventually, the rebates would disappear altogether.

It’s the same approach California used 10 years ago to kick-start sales of rooftop solar arrays. That rebate program helped create the state’s solar industry.

Even in eco-conscious California, sales of battery-powered cars have not accelerated as quickly as state officials wanted, due to relatively low gasoline prices and the limited range of most electric vehicles.

Read more at: California eyes bigger rebates for electric cars – San Francisco Chronicle

Filed under Climate Change & Energy, Transportation

Enphase CEO resigns as microinverter maker shows improvement in second quarter

Jeff St. John, GREENTECH MEDIA

Microinverter maker Enphase is losing its long-time CEO, and gaining some financial headroom to bolster its flagging performance.

On Tuesday, the same day the company reported its second-quarter 2017 earnings, Enphase reported the resignation of CEO Paul Nahi, who joined the company in 2007 and brought it to prominence as the first publicly traded microinverter maker with its 2010 IPO.

Now, with the Petaluma, Calif.-based company struggling to survive against harsh competition from rival SolarEdge and incumbent string inverter makers such as SMA, Fronius and ABB, Nahi is leaving the company.

Read more at: Enphase CEO Resigns as Microinverter Maker Shows Improvement in Second Quarter | Greentech Media

Filed under Climate Change & Energy