Bill McKibben, THE CRUCIAL YEARS
Last Wednesday, a team at Oxford University released a fascinating paper that I haven’t seen covered anywhere. Stirringly titled “Empirically grounded technology forecasts and the energy transition,” it makes the following argument: “compared to continuing with a fossil-fuel-based system, a rapid green energy transition will likely result in overall net savings of many trillions of dollars–even without accounting for climate damages or co-benefits of climate policy.”
So far in the global warming era, we’ve caught precious few breaks. Certainly not from physics: the temperature has increased at the alarming pace that scientists predicted thirty years ago, and the effects of that warming have increased even faster than expected. (“Faster Than Expected” is probably the right title for a history of climate change so far; if you’re a connoisseur of disaster, there is already a blog by that name). The Arctic is melting decades ahead of schedule, and the sea rising on an accelerated schedule, and the forest fires of the science fiction future are burning this autumn. And we haven’t caught any breaks from our politics either: it’s moved with the lumbering defensiveness one would expect from a system ruled by inertia and vested interest. And so it is easy, and completely plausible, to despair: we are on the bleeding edge of existential destruction.
But one trend is, finally, breaking in the right direction, and perhaps decisively. The price of renewable energy is now falling nearly as fast as heat and rainfall records, and in the process perhaps offering us one possible way out. The public debate hasn’t caught up to the new reality—Bill Gates, in his recent bestseller on energy and climate, laments the “green premium” that must be paid for clean energy. But he (and virtually every other mainstream energy observer) is already wrong—and they’re all about to be spectacularly wrong, if the latest evidence turns out to be right.
Read more at https://billmckibben.substack.com/p/were-finally-catching-a-break-in?
Cheryl Sarfaty, NORTH BAY BUSINESS JOURNAL
Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital on Monday will formally “flip the switch” on its new carport solar panels that have been installed over its main parking lot and on the rooftop of Shea House, which houses families of hospitalized children.
The 4,627 solar modules covering approximately 565 parking spaces will support 40% of the main hospital’s electricity, according to Shaun Ralston, regional manager at Sutter Health.
The new carport solar panels are expected to generate 2.4 million kilowatt-hours of clean energy annually, which would be equivalent to powering 206 homes in one year, according to Sutter.
Shea House, which was rebuilt after being destroyed in the October 2017 wildfires, had 10 solar panels installed on its rooftop, supporting 89% of needed electricity on the site, Ralston said.
“Sutter started looking at these solar projects in (early) 2017,” Ralston said. “We were planning this before the fires … but now we really don’t want to be dependent on the grid.”
Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital already generates 45% of its electric power with fuel-cell technology. By adding the solar panels, the hospital is now generating 85% of its power on-site, purchasing the rest from PG&E, Ralston said.
Read more at https://www.northbaybusinessjournal.com/northbay/sonomacounty/9695962-181/sutter-health-santa-rosa-solar
California became the first state in the nation to require homes built in 2020 and later be solar powered, following a vote by the Building Standards Commission.
The unanimous action on Wednesday finalizes a previous vote by the Energy Commission and fulfills a decade-old goal to make the state reliant on cleaner energy.
“These provisions really are historic and will be a beacon of light for the rest of the country,” said Kent Sasaki, a structural engineer and one of six building standards commissioners. “(It’s) the beginning of substantial improvement in how we produce energy and reduce the consumption of fossil fuels.”
California moves to require solar panels on all new homes
While nobody spoke Wednesday in opposition, the commission received about 300 letters opposing the mandate because of the added cost, the Orange County Register reported.
Energy officials estimated the provisions will add $10,000 to the cost of building a single-family home — about $8,400 from adding solar and about $1,500 for making homes more energy-efficient. But those costs would be offset by lower utility bills over the 30-year lifespan of the solar panels, officials said.
Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/9041250-181/california-first-state-to-mandate
Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
When California’s energy grid gets stressed out during heat waves, energy managers send out so-called flex alerts asking people to conserve energy.
An innovative energy project underway in Santa Rosa aims to take that flexibility to new levels by helping a huge energy user — the city’s water treatment plant — quickly reduce its energy usage while still performing its core mission of cleaning water.
A 125-kilowatt solar array popping up above the parking lot of the Laguna Subregional Water Reclamation plant on Llano Road is the first visible sign of a yearslong effort to turn the plant into a microgrid capable of reducing its use of electricity from the grid.
“Increasing our flexibility to produce energy on-site allows us to adjust our demand on the macro grid, and doing that is worth money,” said Mike Prinz, deputy director of Santa Rosa Water.
Microgrids, as the name implies, are small electric networks that can operate, to varying degrees, independently of the larger electrical grid managed locally by Pacific Gas & Electric Co.
The solar panels are not the core of the new system, but will help recharge the batteries that are being installed later this year as part of the project.
Read more at http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8305925-181/solar-panels-to-help-power
Kathleen Ronayne, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Jumping out ahead of the rest of the country, California on Wednesday moved to require solar panels on all new homes and low-rise apartment buildings starting in 2020.
The new building standard — unanimously approved by the five-member California Energy Commission — would be the first such statewide mandate in the nation. It represents the state’s latest step to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
Robert Raymer, technical director for the California Building Industry Association, called it a “quantum leap.”
“You can bet every other of the 49 states will be watching closely to see what happens,” he said.
The commission endorsed the requirement after representatives of builders, utilities and solar manufacturers voiced support. It needs final approval from California’s Building Standards Commission, which typically adopts the energy panel’s recommendations when updating the state’s building codes.
The requirement would apply only to newly constructed homes, although many homeowners are choosing to install rooftop solar panels with the help of rebate programs.
Read more at https://apnews.com/afa0978eff8443af9e5d7c77a3c285bf
Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
A combination of factors, including President Donald Trump’s tariff on imported solar panels, have prompted cancellation of a major solar power project on six wastewater holding ponds in Sonoma County.
Sonoma Clean Power, the county’s public power supplier, also cited requirements by PG&E and the state Division of Safety of Dams as reasons for terminating a contract approved in 2015 for development of a 12.5-megawatt solar power system on the holding ponds owned by the Sonoma County Water Agency.
The developer, San Francisco-based Pristine Sun, missed its latest deadline to complete the project March 31, prompting Sonoma Clean Power to cancel the deal five days later, said Deb Emerson, the electricity provider’s director of power services.
Read more at http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8253476-181/sonoma-county-solar-power-plant
Kyle Pennell, THE HEALDSBURG TRIBUNE
The level of solar penetration varies quite a bit between the cities and towns in western Sonoma County. At the highest level, 6.83 percent of homes in Sebastopol have installed solar. This is notably more than Healdsburg, where only 3.02 percent of residents have installed solar.
Have you ever wondered how green western Sonoma County is and how we are contributing to protecting the environment and combating climate change? One major way we do this is by changing the way we produce electricity.
Household electricity consumption accounts for about one-third of all energy use, so by reducing or eliminating fossil fuels in electricity production, we can significantly reduce our carbon footprint as individuals and as part of the towns where we live.
Installing solar panels is the easiest and more effective way to make electricity more sustainable. We know that more western Sonoma County residents each year are installing solar panels on their rooftops.
But we were were curious — just how many rooftops have solar and how much electricity gets generated from them in Sebastopol, Windsor, Healdsburg, Cloverdale? If every rooftop in these four towns had solar panels, how much electricity would this generate? Finally, how much carbon emissions would be saved by all of this?
Read more at http://www.sonomawest.com/the_healdsburg_tribune/local_biz/how-solarized-is-western-and-northern-sonoma-county/article_077b691a-15d7-11e8-9cc9-7f3735eb6cca.html
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
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
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