Posts Tagged ‘solar’

April news-bite showers

Monday, April 18th, 2011

Unused Ferris wheel near the abandoned Chernboyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine

* It’s official! California must generate one third of its power from alternative sources by 2020. Notice, in this L.A. Times post, that our acceleration into green power may help California reclaim its lofty perch as environmental lodestar. Wait, there’s truth in them there words.

“… The new law, known as a renewable portfolio standard, is the most aggressive of any state. Several attempts to introduce a federal version have stalled in a divided and preoccupied Congress. California had previously required investor-owned utilities such as Southern California Edison, Pacific Gas & Electric and San Diego Gas & Electric to generate 20% of their electricity from clean sources by 2010, with a three-year grace period. The law signed Tuesday will also apply to municipal utilities such as the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, which manage about a quarter of the state’s electricity load. Energy activists hope the mandate will lead to even more ambitious requirements. “California can power itself entirely on clean energy resources,” said Bernadette Del Chiaro, clean energy advocate with Environment California. “Mandating that the state generate a third of its electricity from renewable energy is a big down payment toward that ultimate goal …”

* And, yet, you want to qualify exuberance for wind energy retaking other alternatives before the Ice Cap re-freezes. Turbines are not having the best year, and you can wager whether it’s cost skepticism, declining subsidies or something to do with oil prices and/or NIMBYism.

Also from the L.A. Times:  “The 5,116 megawatts of wind power installed in the U.S. in 2010 was just half the amount put in during the record year before, but the industry still grew 15%, according to an annual report from the American Wind Energy Assn. To some, the trade group’s data illustrate a young industry’s resiliency amid hostile economics and inconsistent government regulations and incentives. But to others, it’s a worrisome harbinger that wind, which has boomed at an average of 35% each year for the last five, might be headed for a slowdown. The 35,600 wind turbines in the ground nationwide can now produce 40,181 megawatts – enough to supply electricity to 10 million homes, according to the report. That’s 2.3% of all the electricity generated around the country, compared to roughly 2% from solar, geothermal and biomass sources …”

* In what may be the most under-played local enviro news, California’s landmark greenhouse gas cap and trade is expanding into the Great North. Good grief, I say.

“California officials announced Tuesday that the state will expand its newly adopted carbon-trading program to three Canadian provinces, creating the largest regional cap-and-trade system in North America. California will be joined by British Columbia, Quebec and Ontario in a cap-and-trade program aimed at limiting planet-heating greenhouse gases from industrial plants and transportation fuel, and that allows companies to buy and sell emissions allowances among themselves to cut their costs. The Western Climate Initiative, launched by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, was originally designed in 2008 to engage seven Western states and four Canadian provinces in a trading program. That program, it was hoped, would eventually fold into a broader federal cap-and-trade system to be enacted by Congress. But since then, support for curbing global-warming emissions has ebbed, and the economic downturn has cut into business profits. Federal cap-and-trade legislation was passed by the House in 2009 but stalled in the Senate. Arizona, New Mexico Washington, Oregon, Utah and Montana had signed on to join the initiative but have pulled out of the trading plan …”

Now, the things people do without considering their consequences.

* Does the word carcinogenic matter to energy engineers? It should, but it didn’t as much as it should. Link.

“Millions of gallons of potentially hazardous chemicals and known carcinogens were injected into wells by leading oil and gas service companies from 2005 to 2009, a report by three House Democrats said Saturday. The report said 29 of the chemicals injected were known or suspected human carcinogens. They either were regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act as risks to human health or listed as hazardous air pollutants under the Clean Air Act … The chemicals are injected during hydraulic fracturing, a process used in combination with horizontal drilling to allow access to natural gas reserves previously considered uneconomical. The growing use of hydraulic fracturing has allowed natural gas production in the United States to reach levels not achieved since the early 1970s. However, the process requires large quantities of water and fluids, injected underground at high volumes and pressure. The composition of these fluids ranges from a simple mixture of water and sand to more complex mixtures with chemical additives … The report said that from 2005 to 2009, the following states had at least 100,000 gallons of hydraulic fracturing fluids containing a carcinogen injected underground: Texas, Colorado, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Wyoming, North Dakota, New Mexico, Montana and Utah. States with 100,000 gallons or more of fluids containing a regulated chemical under the Safe Drinking Water Act were: Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Oklahoma, Mississippi and North Dakota …”

* Japanese nuclear situation got you down? Well, you can only sign up for a tour of Chernboyl if you’re headed toward the Ukraine and have an appetite for tragedy and history, and are confident about your health. Story.

“For the visitor, Chernobyl makes heavy demands on the imagination — much of what’s important can be seen only in the mind’s eye. From the outside, the building where a reactor blew up April 26, 1986, in the world’s worst nuclear disaster mostly looks like an ordinary, dull industrial building. Only an odd addition supported by buttresses — the sarcophagus covering the reactor — hints that anything unusual happened here. The imagination struggles, too, to repopulate nearby Pripyat with the 50,000 people who lived there. Once a busy town built especially for the plant’s workers, it’s now a silent husk of abandoned apartment towers and scrubby brush slowly overtaking the main square. And inevitably, the visitor tries to picture the radioactive contamination that’s everywhere in the 19-mile area around the plant. The dosimeter clipped to a visitor’s clothes and occasional meters around the site are the only visual clues, flashing numbers that are mostly meaningless to the layman …”

A bubbling brew of catch up news, Smogtown-style. Busy time around these parts, working on a new book and reporting, and loving every bit of it.

Saturday, March 6th, 2010

* The law of unintended geology – how the Haitain quake will reverse ecological repair. From the Newsweek story

” … Since the earthquake decimated Haiti’s capital city, much has been said about the country’s dire poverty. But Haiti is not only the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere; it’s also the most environmentally degraded. Less than 1 percent of its original forest cover remains, and 6 percent of the land has virtually no soil left. Both are due to a vicious cycle of overpopulation, poverty, and natural disasters. Each increases susceptibility to the other and as time wears on, it’s evident that to be effective, all problems must be attacked at once. For what some say was the first time, scientists were trying to do just that—Levy and Fischer’s work was among the first steps toward a more integrated development program addressing both economic and environmental concerns. Now that work has been put on hold …”

* Here come the fast-talking men from L.A. again – interesting piece on turning pillaged Owens Valley into a giant solar energy farm. From the L.A. Times story:

“First it was silver ore that streamed to Los Angeles from the rim of the Owens Valley, then the water from the valley floor.

Now, L.A. has come back for the sunshine.

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, the agency responsible for turning Owens Lake into a dusty salt flat and snatching up nearly every acre from Lone Pine to Bishop, has its sights on transforming the Owens Valley into one of largest sources of solar power in America …”

* Erin, where art thou? An update on the legal career of activist Erin Brockovich. Los Angeles Business Journal story

* Pretty good story from the L.A. Weekly about the health effects of living near freeways. Their toxic, as if we didn’t know that. Some relatively new studies here and a rambling search for City Hall accountability. Link

* Steak AND Smog: the cows of the Central Valley and the greenhouse- methane problem. L.A. Timesstory

* A potential game changing way to produce electricity at home with a fuel cell that combiones air and different fuels without combustion. Think of the countless benefits. L.A. Times link:

California hurting, or just reacclimating to the new world?

Wednesday, October 7th, 2009

seal-of-california-jpeg-lasmogtown

California is “failing,” or so says the British. Excuse us if I’ve heard this one before from supposed sharp-eyed observers convinced we’re past the tipping point to social doom. We dip into outsiders fancy for seeing ruin before the ruin is really there in our book Smogtown: the Lung-Burning History of Pollution in Los Angeles. Imagine that: California actually made it out of the 1970s1

From a recent Guardian feature

“California has a special place in the American psyche. It is the Golden State: a playground of the rich and famous with perfect weather. It symbolises a lifestyle of sunshine, swimming pools and the Hollywood dream factory.

But the state that was once held up as the epitome of the boundless opportunities of America has collapsed. From its politics to its economy to its environment and way of life, California is like a patient on life support. At the start of summer the state government was so deeply in debt that it began to issue IOUs instead of wages. Its unemployment rate has soared to more than 12%, the highest figure in 70 years. Desperate to pay off a crippling budget deficit, California is slashing spending in education and healthcare, laying off vast numbers of workers and forcing others to take unpaid leave. In a state made up of sprawling suburbs the collapse of the housing bubble has impoverished millions and kicked tens of thousands of families out of their homes. Its political system is locked in paralysis and the two-term rule of former movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger is seen as a disaster – his approval ratings having sunk to levels that would make George W Bush blush. The crisis is so deep that Professor Kevin Starr, who has written an acclaimed history of the state, recently declared: “California is on the verge of becoming the first failed state in America …”

Scoff as you may at predictions of California’s tragic early demise, don’t dismiss what some “green roofs” can do as one salvo in the battle against global warming. MSNBC story.

Feeling itchy and green all over? You’re not alone. We’re in era of environmental anguish, and unfortunately Tylenol and a margarita aren’t much relief. New York Times post.

We like this move as insurance if Obama-backed legislation focused on dramatically slowing U.S.-generated greenhouse gases while improving our energy efficiency and use of renewables goes down in flames to partisan politics. L.A. Times story.