Paul Rogers, Lisa M. Krieger and Matthias Gaffni, BAY AREA NEWS GROUP
Investigators are looking at power line failures as a possible cause of the historic fires.
The heavy winds that downed power lines Sunday night at the start of the deadly wildfires raging across Northern California were far from “hurricane strength,” as PG&E has claimed, according to a review of weather station readings.
On Tuesday, the Bay Area News Group reported that Sonoma County emergency dispatchers sent fire crews to at least 10 reports of downed power lines and exploding transformers as the North Bay fires were starting around 9:22 p.m.
In response, PG&E said that “hurricane strength winds in excess of 75 mph in some cases” had damaged their equipment, but they said it was too early to speculate about what started the fires.
However, wind speeds were only about half that level, as the lines started to come down, the weather station records show. At a weather station in north Santa Rosa where the Tubbs fire started, the peak wind gusts at 9:29 p.m. hit 30 mph. An hour later, they were 41 mph.
Similarly, at another weather station east of the city of Napa, on Atlas Peak, where the Atlas fire started, wind gusts at 9:29 p.m. peaked at 32 mph. An hour later they were 30 mph.
Both speeds were substantially under the speed that power lines must be able to withstand winds under state law: at least 56 mph.
Read more at: Fire cause mystery: Winds not ‘hurricane strength’ as PG&E said
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 –
Dan Farber, LEGAL PLANET
Conservatives keep repeating the same arguments, even though the facts have changed.
There used to be some fairly plausible arguments against fighting climate change. I don’t mean crackpot theories about hoaxes or the “I’m not a scientist” hokum. Instead, the arguments I have in mind could be made with a straight face by serious people. I don’t think these arguments were ever truly persuasive, but they weren’t nuts.
You still hear a lot of these arguments today, often from conservatives claiming to take more nuanced positions on climate change. But these arguments have gone stale over time, as the facts on the ground have shifted.
Anyone who makes these arguments today just hasn’t done their homework. Here are these ghost arguments, which are living well past the time they should have gotten a decent burial.
“There’s too much uncertainty.” The IPCC’s first report 1990 expressed confidence that greenhouse gas emissions would cause global warming, but also found that warming up to that point had been within the range of normal variation. The most recent 2014 report – which is five times as long, reflecting a far larger body of research – found that warming had progressed to the point of being unmistakable, and well outside the range of natural variation: “Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, and sea level has risen.”
“China won’t act.” Chinese emissions rose exponentially along with its economy. China refused to agree even in principle to any caps on emissions. So it may have been a reasonable argument that U.S. action would be futile and would give China an unfair advantage. But that argument is well past its “sell by” date. In the Paris Agreement, China agreed to peak emissions by 2030 and committed to interim actions in the meantime. Change has proceeded more rapidly than expected, due to declining prices for renewables, efforts to curb deadly air pollution from coal use, and shifts in the Chinese economy away. In January, China cancelled plans to build over a hundred coal plants. It now seems possible that Chinese emissions have already peaked or will do so no later than 2025.
“Cap-and-trade will crush the economy.” California has had an emission trading system for five years. The economy has been growing and adding jobs over the same periods. The EU and the Northeastern states have their own, less ambitious trading programs. Again, no observable economic ill-effects.
“Renewables will break the grid.” Since they depend on the weather, solar and wind are more variable as power sources than nuclear or fossil fuels. At one time, that looked like it might be a big problem – an issue that Rick Perry seems to be trying to resurrect. But this problem is looking a lot more manageable than it used to. California utilities are required to get 33% of their power from renewables. Somehow the lights have stayed on, day and night, regardless of weather. Germany has had a huge increase in renewables without causing any decrease in grid reliability. Better grid management is much of the reason, including demand response (paying selected users to reduce power use when necessary). These techniques have their limits, and we will probably need much greater energy storage capacity at some point when fossil fuels are pushed out of the generation mix. But even without technological improvements, electric cars offer an appealing combination of low-pollution transportation and energy storage capacity.
“Renewables are unaffordable.” The high price of renewables compared to cheap goal or natural gas seemed to pose a big obstacle to addressing climate change. The gap is much smaller today, and economic parity does not seem far away and may already have been arrived. According to a report from the World Economic Forum, Just ten years ago, generating electricity through solar cost about $600 per MWh, and it cost only $100 to generate the same amount of power through coal and natural gas. But the price of renewable sources of power plunged quickly – today it only costs around $100 to generate the same amount of electricity through solar and $50 through wind. Given the economics, it’s not surprising that in countries like India, where cost is a key consideration, more renewable capacity is being added to the grid than coal. I don’t want to exaggerate the ease of moving to a zero-carbon economy. There are still formidable difficulties – but they’re not as enormous as they looked a decade or two ago.
It’s convenient to continue believing in these arguments, especially if you’re worried about the risks of dissenting from your ideological soulmates. But ultimately, it’s the road to intellectual bankruptcy.In short, folks, it’s time to wake up and smell the coffee.
Source: Obsolete Arguments Against Climate Action | Legal Planet
California ISO – See graphs for electricity supply and demand, renewable energy production and more: http://www.caiso.com/Pages/TodaysOutlook.aspx
The operator of California’s power grid has issued a so-called Flex Alert calling for voluntary electricity conservation between 2 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday, the expected peak of the current heat wave.
The California Independent System Operator says consumers shouldn’t use major appliances during those hours and should set air conditioners to 78 degrees or higher and turn off unnecessary lights to ease strain on the grid.
The forecast peak electricity usage is expected to exceed 47,000 megawatts each day.
Source: California grid operator calls for voluntary conservation | The Press Democrat
Julian Spector, GREENTECH MEDIA
If California wants to continue increasing its share of solar power on the grid, it will need greater capacity to store it. The question remains: how much?
A new study from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory attempts to quantify the answer. The authors model several scenarios in which the California grid generates 50 percent of its power from solar by 2030. To do so will require some pretty major changes, including more flexible baseload generation, as well as more deployment of electric vehicles, exports to other states and demand response.
Those can only go so far, though. To meet the 50 percent photovoltaic threshold economically will require energy storage. The state already has 3,100 megawatts of pumped storage, with 1,325 megawatts of additional storage set to be deployed by 2020, per the state mandate. Under the most optimistic flexible grid scenario and with PV prices falling rapidly to 3 cents per kilowatt-hour, California will need another 15 gigawatts of storage by 2030.
That’s more than 11 times the amount mandated currently in California, and 66 times the total megawatts deployed in the U.S. last year. And any delays in the price declines of solar, or the rollout of EVs, or the flexibility of conventional power plants, will raise the bar on the amount of storage required.
That sounds daunting, admitted NREL Principal Energy Analyst Paul Denholm, who co-authored the research with Robert Margolis.
“Storage costs are going to have to come down,” Denholm said. “I don’t want to sugar-coat it: we’re not there yet.”
But the challenge becomes more attainable if you frame it as getting storage to a price point where it can take the place of peaker plants, the most expensive form of thermal generation. California had 22 gigawatts of fossil-fueled peakers as of 2014, including 14 gigawatts that were older than 25 years and will eventually need to retire.
Read more at: How Much Energy Storage Would Be Needed for California to Reach 50 Percent Solar? | Greentech Media