Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, Climate Change & Energy, Sustainable LivingTags , , , , ,

After 27 years in western Marin County, Straus moves to cutting-edge creamery in Rohnert Park

Austin Murphy, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

In his dungarees and rubber boots, Albert Straus looked every bit the dairy farmer that he is. On this particular morning, however, the 66-year-old founder and CEO of Straus Family Creamery was some 25 miles from his family farm.

Straus stood on the floor of a processing plant, amid gleaming silver tanks and conveyor belts that would soon begin moving hundreds of the company’s iconic glass bottles of milk with cream on top.

While those bottles were familiar, the building was not. After 27 years making its highly regarded organic dairy products at a facility in Marshall, the company recently moved its production plant from Marin to Sonoma County, to this brand new, $20 million, 50,000-square foot facility in Rohnert Park. Where the old creamery was surrounded by ranchland, its new neighbors include the Graton Resort and Casino, and a Costco.

“After 27 years in Marshall,” said Straus, gesturing to the machinery around him, “this will give us a road map for the next 30 years.”

While the old plant could process up to 20,000 gallons of milk a day, the new one will be capable of doubling that output — “and do it much more efficiently,” noted Straus. The upgraded plant also features new technologies that allow it to capture and reuse large amounts of water and heat.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/after-27-years-in-western-marin-county-straus-moves-to-cutting-edge-creame/?

Posted on Categories Climate Change & EnergyTags , , ,

How your water heater can be a secret weapon in the climate change fight

Todd Woody, BLOOMBERG,COM

California wants to replace millions of gas water heaters with high-tech electric ones to serve as “thermal batteries” for storing solar and wind energy.

Nearly every home has a water heater, but people tend not to think about it until the shock of a cold shower signals its failure. To regulators, though, the ubiquitous household appliance is increasingly top of mind for the role it could play in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and weaning the power grid from fossil fuels

High-tech electric water heaters can double as thermal batteries, storing excess production from wind and solar generators. In California, officials aim to install them in place of millions of gas water heaters throughout the state.
That would reduce the need to fire up polluting fossil fuel power plants to supply electricity for water heating after the sun sets.

“Water heaters have significant potential,” says Commissioner Clifford Rechtschaffen of the California Public Utilities Commission. “We know we’ll need a tremendous amount of storage to get to our decarbonization goals. We’re challenged now in evenings when renewable energy production declines and demand peaks.”

The focus is on heat pump water heaters, which transfer warmth from the atmosphere to a tank. They’re up to four times as efficient as conventional gas or electric water heaters. Nationwide, about half of water heaters are powered by natural gas. In California, water heating is one of the biggest consumers of fossil fuels and gas water heaters account for 90% of the market. Swapping them for heat pump versions could reduce greenhouse gas emissions from water heating in the state by as much as 77%, according to a paper published in January by the nonprofit New Buildings Institute.

Read more at https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-02-11/how-your-water-heater-can-be-a-secret-weapon-in-the-climate-change-fight

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

Windsor approves $100 million apartment complex featuring advanced energy efficiency

Alexandria Bordas, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

After five years of planning, Windsor officials have approved construction of an apartment complex that will be the town’s most eco-friendly housing community.

Called The Mill, it will include 360 apartments built over the next two years with all electric mechanicals such as heat pumps for water and cooling and appliances powered by solar panels installed throughout the 20-acre property. Also, residents will have electric vehicle charging stations and the ability to store excess solar energy, among other amenities. There will be no gas lines anywhere in the apartment community.

Town leaders touted the $100 million housing development as being zero-net energy, meaning energy used by apartment tenants on an annual basis will be renewable and generated on-site. It is believed to be the largest apartment project with such aggressive energy efficiency set for construction in Sonoma County, said Peter Stanley, a project manager with ArchiLOGIX, a Santa Rosa design and consulting firm.

Stanley is working with Bob Bisno, a Southern California developer that recently got the go-ahead from Windsor Town Council to build the housing project on the south end of Windsor River Road.

It will be walking distance from the planned Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit station.

The development represents another key piece of the town’s leaders renewable energy agenda to contend with climate change. Last month, Windsor officials said the town will use solar energy to power its water facilities, by teaming with a French company that’s installing floating solar panels this summer across a large pond on the town’s public works property.

The town council approved The Mill in hopes Windsor will get ahead of a California state law that will require all building permits issued for most new homes and multifamily residences after Jan. 1, 2020 to include rooftop solar panels. Also, state officials last year announced a goal of having all new commercial construction achieving zero net energy by 2030.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/9780974-181/windsor-approves-100-million-apartment

Posted on Categories Climate Change & EnergyTags , ,

Do Americans need air-conditioning?

Penelope Green, THE NEW YORK TIMES

Modernity was born 116 years, 11 months, two weeks and two days ago, at a printing plant in the East Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, when a junior engineer named Willis Carrier devised a contraption that blew air over water-filled pipes to dry out the humidity that was gumming up the pages of a humor magazine called Judge.

And in that moment (well, within a few decades), entire industries and geographies were transformed, and new technologies made possible, including, terribly, the internet: Without cooling, there would be no server farms.

Nearly 90 percent of American households now have some form of air-conditioning, more than any other country in the world except Japan, though that will change as global warming alters more temperate zones, and swelling populations and rising incomes in hot zones mean the folks there will clamor for AC, too.

On an overheated planet, air-conditioning becomes more and more desirable, solving in the short term the problem it helped create.
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It is another paradox that even as architects and engineers are making ever more efficient buildings to meet energy standards set by cities like New York, where a new law says that buildings over 25,000 square feet must reduce their carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050, we are still freezing in our offices and fighting with our partners over whether to turn on the Friedrich.

Read more at https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/03/style/air-conditioning-obsession.html?searchResultPosition=1

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, Sustainable Living, TransportationTags , , , ,

California’s new energy law (SB 100) is a piece in a larger puzzle

Steven Weissman, LEGAL PLANET

Rooftop solar,storage and energy efficiency still play critical roles

California’s new landmark energy law should be a matter of pride for the whole state. It calls for electricity providers to rely on renewable sources for at least 60% of their delivered power by 2030 and on zero greenhouse gas-emitted sources for the remaining 40% by 2045. People refer to this as the 100% clean energy bill, and it represents a bold new approach for reducing California’s carbon footprint. The California Legislature deserves praise for its dedication to these important issues and for its leadership.

Let’s be clear, however, about what this change is and what it isn’t. The new law is not a 100% renewable energy mandate. The zero-emitting 40% could include large-scale hydroelectric, which is not called “renewable” for the purposes of California’s mandate, and nuclear power. It could even include natural gas or coal-fired power if people can figure out an economical way to capture and sequester all of the related greenhouse gas emissions. Although the new law leaves it to regulators to define what “clean” means, arguably some of the eligible power sources are not particularly clean, as I will explain below. Nonetheless, at this point only Hawaii can boast of a similar broad effort to eliminate carbon-based powerplant fuels.

So, we’re done! Since all power is going to be clean, we are all off the hook. It doesn’t matter how much we use. It doesn’t matter if we generate power on our rooftops, or if we provide community solar parks. We can plug in our cars, set up new districts with neon lights that rival Las Vegas, and get a second or third refrigerator to store beer in the garage — our friendly retail electricity provider will take care of everything.

Well, not so fast. It is still important for us all to do what we can to reduce demand for energy, across-the-board, and shift our usage to periods of lower demand. It is still valuable to distribute power generation throughout a utility service area (closer to customers), add solar photovoltaics to suitable rooftops, and rely on storage in batteries and other devices to make renewable energy available at night and when the wind doesn’t blow.

Read more at http://legal-planet.org/2018/09/10/californias-new-energy-law-sb-100-is-a-piece-in-a-larger-puzzle/

Posted on Categories Climate Change & EnergyTags , , , , Leave a comment on Op-Ed: New rules cast a shadow on a green energy program

Op-Ed: New rules cast a shadow on a green energy program

Rocco Fabiano, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Nearly a decade ago, Sonoma County became the first county in the nation to offer an innovative financing option to encourage homeowners to invest in projects that reduced energy consumption and provided for a cleaner environment. Known as PACE, for property-assessed clean energy, the program made it easier to pay for renewable and energy-efficient upgrades by allowing homeowners to finance these projects through their property taxes. This program was designed to provide a vehicle for promoting important public policy initiatives, without using tax dollars or tax credits.

The Sonoma County program, known as SCEIP, was launched after California passed the most comprehensive legislation in the country to address climate change, with the goal of improving the environment while maintaining a robust economy. The fact that these pioneering programs were birthed in California was no accident.

The Golden State has long been a leader in addressing climate change, one of the most pressing challenges of our time. Residential PACE programs have now been approved in more than 50 California counties and have spread to Florida and Missouri. In California, the program has been expanded to support other public policy initiatives, including water conversation and seismic retrofits.

But now this program is in jeopardy of collapsing under the weight of new regulations. Losing PACE would have the unfortunate effect of eliminating strong economic and environmental benefits for our region.

Read more at http://www.pressdemocrat.com/opinion/8528392-181/close-to-home-new-rules

Posted on Categories Climate Change & EnergyTags , , ,

Feds ease rules on homes with PACE green-upgrade loans 

NORTH BAY BUSINESS JOURNAL
The federal government has announced new guidelines that will make it easier for the sale and financing of homes with existing property-assessed clean energy (PACE) loans, through the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) and the Veterans’ Administration (VA).
Seniority has been a sticking point for PACE loans since California enacted Assembly Bill 811 of 2008, allowing such financing, and the pioneering Sonoma County Energy Independence Program launched in March 2009.
“This guidance provides resolution on how PACE financings will be handled in the event of a property’s sale, refinance or foreclosure and upholds PACE’s senior lien position,” said Stacey Lawson, CEO and president of Ygrene Energy Fund, a Santa Rosa-based PACE financing provider. “This is confirmation for the homeowners and local governments that have realized enormous, positive benefits of PACE financing for energy and water-related improvements.”
PACE programs enable homeowners to finance up to 20 years water and energy-efficiency projects, paying for the improvements along with their property taxes.
The new guidelines say that a senior PACE lien can be secured to a property with an FHA-insured mortgage in a manner consistent with traditional special property-tax assessments. Additionally, the announcement reinforces lien transferability by stating that in the event of a sale — including a foreclosure sale — that the outstanding PACE obligation will remain with the property and the new homeowner will be responsible for the balance.
The Obama administration, in collaboration with state agencies, also announced a new goal to bring 1 gigawatt of solar — enough to power roughly 700,000 homes — to low- and moderate- income families by 2020. The Clean Energy Savings for All Americans Initiative is a joint partnership between the department of Energy, Housing and Urban Development, Agriculture, Health and Human Services and Veteran’s Affairs, and the Environmental Protection Agency.
Source: Feds ease rules on homes with PACE green-upgrade loans | The North Bay Business Journal

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

California wants renewable energy for half its power by 2030 

Michael R. Blood & Judy Lin, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Gov. Jerry Brown dramatically increased California’s climate-change goals, committing the state to use renewable energy for half its electricity and make existing buildings twice as energy-efficient in just 15 years.
Brown tried for an even stronger measure that also would have enforced a 50 percent drop in petroleum use by 2030, but was defeated by oil interests. He called that a short-term setback, and insisted that the world needs to wean itself off fossil fuels as quickly as possible.
“What has been the source of our prosperity now becomes the source of our ultimate destruction, if we don’t get off it. And that is so difficult,” Brown said at a signing ceremony Wednesday at the hilltop Griffith Observatory, overlooking the haze of downtown Los Angeles.
California already has some of the world’s toughest air quality standards, and set a mandate in 2006 to derive a third of its electricity from renewable sources such as solar, wind and geothermal by 2020. State regulators say they already hit 25 percent last year, as huge solar farms sprouted in the desert and towering windmills went up along mountain passes.
“It’s monumental,” said Alex Jackson, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “For an economy the size of California to commit to getting half of its power needs from renewable energy resources, I think, is a game-changer.”
Read more at: California wants renewable energy for half its power by 2030 | The State

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, Sustainable Living, WaterTags , , , , Leave a comment on Homeowners have new choices to fund energy, water improvements

Homeowners have new choices to fund energy, water improvements

Robert Digitale, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Choices, choices. Sonoma County homeowners seeking to add a solar energy system, replace that old furnace or install artificial turf soon will have an array of options to fund the improvements.The county is witnessing a proliferation of government-sponsored programs that offer to finance various energy- and water-efficiency projects. But figuring out which option is best can be difficult.
Many homeowners already know about the 6-year-old Sonoma County Energy Independence Program, or SCEIP, which is available in each of the county’s nine cities and the unincorporated area. For little money down, the county-sponsored effort provides financing for various projects, with costs added to the homeowners’ property tax bills. Approved contractors complete the work, and owners pay back the borrowed funds over periods of 10 or 20 years with an annual interest rate of 7 percent.
Now three more separate programs are joining SCEIP to compete for residential projects, and a fourth offers financing solely for commercial work. Fees vary and interest rates range from just under 7 percent for a five-year loan to more than 8 percent for a 20-year loan.
However, none of the new residential programs currently are available throughout the county, as SCEIP is. For example, two new programs are taking applications today in Sebastopol and one is available in Windsor and Petaluma. None are yet available in Santa Rosa, though that may change this summer. Program officials said they hope to eventually operate countywide, but that depends on getting approval from each city council.
Sound complicated? Homeowners thinking about improvement projects first may benefit by contacting the Sonoma County Energy Independence Office, the government office that is gearing up to provide consumer information on the emerging marketplace.
“We’ll steer them to whatever resources we know of,” said Jane Elias, a community program coordinator for the county’s energy efficiency efforts.
Read more at: Homeowners face dizzying new choices to fund energy, | The Press Democrat

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, Sustainable LivingTags , Leave a comment on Santa Rosa turns darkened streetlights back on with new high-efficiency LED bulbs

Santa Rosa turns darkened streetlights back on with new high-efficiency LED bulbs

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
In the dark days of Santa Rosa’s budget crisis, one of the most visible signs of the city’s financial challenges was its decision to turn off thousands of the city’s streetlights.
Between 2009 and 2013, the city either switched off or limited the run time of approximately 4,700 streetlights throughout Santa Rosa, nearly a third of the 15,500 in the city.
It was a controversial program, one that, despite saving the city more than $300,000 per year, was scaled back from its original goal of darkening 10,000 lights following pressure from residents and council members concerned about safety issues.
Now that the city’s budget picture has brightened significantly, it has committed to turn back on all 3,400 lights that were switched off and all 1,300 lights that were placed on timers, which automatically turned the lights off between midnight and 5:30 a.m.
The goal is to have all those lights back on by June 2016, an aggressive target that the City Council funded with an additional $600,000 from a mid-year budget surplus.
Read more via: Santa Rosa turns darkened streetlights back on | The Press Democrat