Posted on Categories Climate Change & EnergyTags , , , ,

California reduces payments for rooftop solar power — for second time in a year

Ben Christopher and Julie Cart, CALMATTERS

The utilities commission reduced payments to apartments, schools and businesses selling solar power to the grid despite a barrage of criticism. Commissioners say it reverses unfair subsidies.

After months of debate and two postponed votes, California’s utility regulator unanimously voted today to overhaul incentives for owners of apartment buildings, schools and businesses that install solar panels.

The new regulations are the second major step that the California Public Utilities Commission has taken in the past year to reduce power companies’ financial support for rooftop solar. In December, the commission reduced payments to homeowners who sell excess power from newly installed solar panels on single-family homes.

Still, for solar advocates, it could have been worse.

Thanks to a last-minute regulatory tweak, the new rules today stop short of a previous proposal that solar industry groups and housing-related interests warned would result in the “evisceration” of the multifamily solar market.

Read more at https://calmatters.org/environment/2023/11/california-solar-payment/

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, ForestsTags , , , ,

PG&E unveils first 100% renewable remote power system at Pepperwood Preserve

Mary Callahan, PRESS DEMOCRAT

Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and Pepperwood Preserve unveiled the state’s first fully renewable, stand-alone power system at the nonprofit group’s remote site in the Mayacamas Mountains on Monday — part of the utility’s push to eliminate last-mile distribution lines from especially fire-prone areas.

The new remote, solar-powered system is owned by PG&E and will allow the utility to remove nearly three-fourths of a mile of overhead distribution lines that cascade down a wind-swept hillside. It eliminates, as well, the associated maintenance burden and wildfire liability that power lines in mountainous areas represent.

But it also will serve as a replicable model that can be used in hundreds of other locations to reduce first risk and make for a more resilient power supply, project partners said.

It is part of PG&E’s overall system hardening efforts, developed in the wake of catastrophic wildfires caused by faulty power equipment during extreme winds. Other measures include burying power lines and strengthening power poles and overhead lines.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/first-100-renewable-remote-power-system-installed-at-pepperwood-preserve/?pupeml=5144

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, Sustainable LivingTags , ,

Petaluma gets $1 million to plant more trees

Jennifer Sahwney, PETLUMA ARGUS-COURIER

The city of Petaluma announced it has received a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service to expand its tree canopy over the next three years.

The plan is to plant about 2,550 trees, said Wendy Jacobs of ReLeaf Petaluma, a local nonprofit that will undertake much of the day-to-day project management.

The tree-planting initiative is part of the Petaluma Canopy Project, a collaborative partnership between the city and local nonprofits including ReLeaf Petaluma, Daily Acts, Rebuilding Together Petaluma, Point Blue Conservation and Cool Petaluma.

The project will “plant trees around parks, schools, residential areas, and our riverbank, with the aim of restoring native species,” according to a news release.

Part of the strategy is to prioritize areas where the city’s low-income residents live and gather, “which typically have fewer trees than other parts of the city,” the release said.

More trees support the city’s climate goals, reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and decrease noise, water and air pollution. The shade they provide also lowers ambient temperatures, the release said.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/city-gets-1-million-to-plant-more-trees/

Posted on Categories WaterTags , , , , ,

Sonoma, Mendocino county water managers propose pathway for continued Eel River diversions

Mary Callahan, PRESS DEMOCRAT

Water managers in Sonoma and Mendocino counties seek to preserve water transfer infrastructure as part of PG&E license surrender for Potter Valley power plant.

Water managers in Sonoma and Mendocino counties have submitted a conceptual proposal to PG&E to buy and maintain portions of the utility’s defunct Potter Valley power plant to enable future water transfers.

The move would be a critical step toward preserving seasonal diversions of Eel River water to supplement supplies in Lake Mendocino and the Russian River.

Working with the Mendocino County Inland Water and Power Commission and the Round Valley Indian Tribes, the Sonoma County Water Agency is seeking to preserve elements of the power plant through which water is channeled from the Eel River to the East Fork Russian River. No electricity would be generated as a part of the plan.

Pacific Gas & Electric has planned to surrender its license for the 1908 plant with the intent of decommissioning it. Without a proposal to save it, the diversion infrastructure would eventually be removed, leaving upper Russian River communities and agriculture users without sufficient water.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/sonoma-mendocino-county-water-managers-propose-pathway-for-continued-eel-r/?ref=mosthome

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, ForestsTags , , ,

After tree trimming declared ineffective, PG&E adopts new wildfire mitigation strategy

Grace Scullion, SACRAMENTO BEE

PG&E Corp. is axing its enhanced tree-trimming program aimed at reducing wildfire risk after deeming it largely ineffective, the Wall Street Journal reported.

PG&E Corp. is axing its enhanced tree-trimming program aimed at reducing wildfire risk after deeming it largely ineffective, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The $2.5 billion program thinned and cleared more than one million trees near power lines across Central and Northern California since it went into effect in 2019, the newspaper said after interviews with executives.

Pacific Gas & Electric, which provides electricity and gas to 16 million across the state, credited the program with reducing total fire ignitions by 7% and ignitions during the fall fire season by 13%.

The embattled utility, which has been blamed for several of California’s worst and deadly wildfires, said it would still trim its backlog of about 385,000 potentially hazardous trees that have yet to be cleared — an effort expected to take nine years.

The Oakland-based company also said it would continue its regular tree-trimming maintenance. Twice per year, the company inspects trees around power lines for hazards. It is also piloting a targeted tree-trim program focused on heavily forested areas of the Sierra Nevada foothills.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/after-tree-trimming-declared-ineffective-pge-adopts-new-wildfire-mitigati/

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, Water, WildlifeTags , , , , , , ,

Sonoma, Mendocino County grape growers battling new rules designed to reduce sediment, pesticides in local waterways

Mary Callahan, PRESS DEMOCRAT

A new program targeting 1,500 commercial grape growers in Sonoma and Mendocino counties and designed to improve water quality in local creeks and rivers is drawing criticism from members of the agricultural community.

The draft rules include reporting requirements, annual fees, well and groundwater monitoring, ground cover requirements and restrictions on wintertime operations that growers deem excessive.

Vineyard operators and agricultural representatives say the costs and mandates are overkill for an industry that is already working to reduce sediment runoff into waterways and protect fish habitats.

Small growers are especially likely to suffer because “their margins are really small, and the proposed permit is going to create costs that are significant to them,” said Robin Bartholow, deputy executive director of the Sonoma County Farm Bureau.

But staff of the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board say the soil disturbance and chemical use in many vineyards, as well as potential disruption of riparian plants needed to shade fish habitat, can degrade water quality in creeks and rivers.

Read more at: https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/sonoma-mendocino-county-grape-growers-battling-new-rules-designed-to-reduc/

Posted on Categories Water, WildlifeTags , , , , , , ,

Op-Ed: Eel River dam debate echoes nationally

Cameron Nielson & Sarah Bardeen, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

On paper, California’s Eel River is a prime candidate for restoration.

It’s a remote river that runs through rugged, lightly populated terrain in Northern California. As with many rivers in the region, a combination of logging, overfishing and dams decimated its once-plentiful salmon and steelhead runs. The introduction of a native predator, the pikeminnow, only made things worse.

But some of that could be put to rights: two aging dams in the Eel’s upper reaches are reaching the end of their life span — and one has been declared seismically unsafe. PG&E, which owns the dams, has chosen not to renew their licenses, setting the stage for removal if no new owner steps forward.

Eel River residents overwhelmingly support dam removal, the tribes are adamantly in favor, and a constellation of NGOs is pushing hard for it. If those dams come down, 150 square miles of cold-water habitat will open up to struggling populations of steelhead and salmon, offering needed refuge from the warming climate.

So why is it so hard to get done?

Part of the answer lies in the dam’s history. Part lies in the challenges of coping with a surfeit of aging infrastructure. And part lies in the complexities of who exactly constitutes the river’s community. Finding a solution has implications not just for the state but for the nation.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/opinion/nielsen-and-bardeen-eel-river-dam-debate-echoes-nationally/

Posted on Categories Water, WildlifeTags , , , ,

California’s unnatural river flows threaten aquatic life—here’s a (partial) fix

Robin Meadows, MAVEN’S NOTEBOOK

Calfifornia Fish & Wildlife Instream Flow Program

“We always act surprised when drought shows up, with ad hoc actions to try to protect species and ecosystems,” Mount says. “One place to start is to give the environment a water budget and someone to manage it, especially during drought—we should plan for it, rather than react to it.”

As a New York Times columnist once quipped, “California’s water system might have been invented by a Soviet bureaucrat on an LSD trip.” The system was engineered in the 1900s to capture winter rain and spring snowmelt in vast reservoirs and then send this water to cities and farms via thousands of miles of canals, pipelines and tunnels.

While this system suits many people, it doesn’t suit fish, frogs and other river life. Many California waterways are regulated by reservoirs that release water for supply, flood control, and hydropower, resulting in river flows that are far from natural. Now there’s a movement to reinstate the seasonal flows that native species depend on.

“The idea of mimicking a natural flow regime is not rocket science and it’s not new,” says Sarah Yarnell, a river ecosystems expert at UC Davis. Like many innovations, it’s just taken a while to start percolating into the mainstream.

Read more at https://mavensnotebook.com/2023/07/13/notebook-feature-californias-unnatural-river-flows-threaten-aquatic-life-heres-a-partial-fix/

Posted on Categories Forests, Water, WildlifeTags , , , , , ,

Board hands down harsher penalty for Felta Creek timber owner’s water quality violations

Mary Callahan, PRESS DEMOCRAT

Regional regulators raised the total fines for Ken Bareilles in light of the important role of Felta Creek watershed, a last refuge for spawning coho salmon and steelhead trout.

A timber owner whose logging operations fouled the sensitive Felta Creek watershed, allowing sediment to enter the salmon-bearing waterway near Healdsburg over two successive winters, was ordered Friday to pay $276,000 in penalties.

The North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board’s unanimous decision came as a severe blow to landowner Ken Bareilles, 81, who fought to deflect a proposed $251,000 fine during a 3 1/2-hour hearing only to have the board return with a harsher penalty given the importance of Felta Creek to coho salmon populations and the potential harm resulting from inadequate erosion control.

‘’The whole thing is speculative,” Bareilles argued, challenging what he considered to be weak evidence and chastising water quality personnel for failing to use sensors or gauges to measure the sediment in streams.

Staffers for the water quality board said measurements weren’t required after inspections over a year and a half continued to turn up on-the-ground evidence of absent or failed erosion-control measures that allowed silty water and mud to flow into Felta Creek and nearby tributaries to the Russian River.

“This was the sloppiest operation that I’ve seen on any active timber operation in my career,” veteran board staffer James Burke, a senior engineering geologist, said in presenting evidence against Bareilles.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/board-hands-down-harsher-penalty-for-felta-creek-timber-owners-water-quali/

Posted on Categories Climate Change & EnergyTags ,

US residential heat pump sales pass gas furnaces for first time as interest in efficiency tech surges

Robert Walton, UTILITY DIVE

  • Global energy demand rose 1% in 2022 but the rate of energy efficiency improvements was double the average of the past five years boosted by “surging” sales in more efficient technologies like heat pumps and electric vehicles, the International Energy Agency said in a report Wednesday.
  • In the United States last year, residential heat pump sales exceeded gas furnaces for the first time, making up 53% of heating system sales.
  • Sales of electric vehicles grew 55% last year in the United States, and in the first quarter of this year made up more than 7% of new car sales. Globally, EVs made up 14% of new car sales in 2022 and could reach 18% this year, IEA said.

Read more at https://www.utilitydive.com/news/heat-pump-sales-topped-gas-furnaces-United-States/652277/