environment

Cal Solar’s own Martin Webb will be speaking on the history of Solar in Nevada County, and where we are headed.

Saturday, April 13th, 1-4pm, doors open at 12:30pm @ Grass Valley Vets Hall

Join us for an Educational Forum to explore climate change action and learn more about:

▪ Green New Deal – so what’s the deal?
▪ Carbon sequestration through smart land use
▪ Forest and watershed health
▪ Solar, wind, and other green technologies
▪ Green economic drivers and job creators

Also Featuring Key Note Speaker:
Kate Gordon, OPR Director

Kate Gordon is a nationally recognized expert on the intersection of climate change, energy, and economic development. Gordon was appointed Director of the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research by Governor Gavin Newsom on January 7, 2019. Gordon serves as the Governor’s senior advisor on climate. Gordon has worked on a variety of economic development and social justice issues for over 15 years, and is regarded as a leader in the national “green jobs” movement.

For more info: here

Photo: Chris Maher, General Manager of the BriarPatch Co-op pictured next to the array in front of the store.

Grocery stores generate very high energy usage. When you consider the ongoing lighting, technology, and warming and cooling in every department, the bills can be astronomical.

Such was the case with BriarPatch Food Co-op in Grass Valley.

“Grocery stores have enormous demand,” said General Manager Chris Maher. “The cost of running refrigeration 24/7 is outrageous.”

BriarPatch operates under a series of ends policies, similar to a mission statement. They are committed to being conscientious stewards of the land, always considering social, environmental and financial impact when we make business decisions. “We call it a triple bottom line,” Maher said.

It is this commitment that brought them to installing solar.
Because of the business demand they were experiencing around 2012, they started planning for a major parking expansion. “We were looking at the whole site, and the best use of every inch of land,” Maher said. “Within the context of expanded parking, we had the option of installing covered solar parking.”

While data is continuously being monitored and collected, and will be updated in a future report, Maher said there are significant energy savings since solar was installed.

“We absolutely see savings,” he said. “Our production for the first year was approximately half of our normal demand.”

Full circle to Cal Solar

When the BriarPatch board came up with a basic concept of the large structure with a walkway and the idea for the solar project, they looked at different designs they could pursue. They selected several local, regional and national solar companies, and used a rigorous vetting process that included factors such as the company’s experience, approach, and commentary on BriarPatch’s idea. “We were really pleased with the presentation of Cal Solar at the get-go,” Maher said. “We were hoping for that result, but committed to the best people for the job.”

“While it wasn’t our first carport, it remains the largest carport we have done to date,” said Martin Webb, commercial sales and design manager for Cal Solar. “What was unique was working within the context of a much larger parking lot remodel project. This meant not just coordinating our schedule with the builder of the carport, but also being on the job site with multiple contractors and tradesmen who were also busy with their scopes of work. The architect on the entire remodel was like a conductor and we were the ‘solar section’ of the orchestra.”

Another unique and challenging aspect was the fact that the BriarPatch is a very busy grocery store and community hub.
“In order to minimize the disruption to their customers and their daily supply chain of food deliveries Cal Solar had install crews working outside of normal business hours,” Webb said. “It ended up being a lucky convergence really,” Maher said. “And working with Cal Solar was very easy.”

The Briar Patch array under construction in 2016.

The Sahara desert is expanding, and has been for at least a century. It’s a phenomenon that seems impossible to stop.

But it hasn’t stopped at least one group of scientists from dreaming of a way to do it. And their proposed solution, a grand scheme that involves covering vast areas of desert with solar panels and windmills, just got published in the prestigious journal Science.

Eugenia Kalnay, a prominent atmospheric scientist at the University of Maryland, has been thinking about this idea for a decade. Kalnay is small in stature, soft-spoken. But she’s made her name with big and bold ideas. And what could be bigger and bolder than reversing the course of the world’s biggest desert?

Her academic adviser at MIT, Jule Charney, was among the first to describe the vicious cycle that can lead to desertification. With drought, green vegetation disappears, and the light-colored dirt that remains reflects more of the sun. This cools the land surface, which in turn means that there’s less heat driving air upward into higher and cooler levels of the atmosphere – the process that normally produces precipitation. So there’s less rain, killing even more vegetation.

Kalnay wondered if there might be a way to revive those atmospheric currents. “It occurred to me that the same [cycle] would go in the opposite way, so it would increase precipitation, and vegetation, and then more precipitation,” she says.

And then she thought of solar panels. They’re dark, so they don’t reflect the sun’s light. Could they heat up the surface and revive those rain-bringing air currents?

Kalnay convinced one of her post-doc researchers to create a computer simulation of an otherworldly Sahara where 20 percent of the land is covered with solar panels. The computer model also turned the desert into a giant wind farm, covered with turbines. Kalnay thought they might also help boost those beneficial air currents.

And the simulation turned out just the way she’d hoped. It showed rainfall increasing by enough to bring back vegetation. The model showed the biggest increases in rainfall along the southern edge of the Sahara, the area called the Sahel.

“It is wonderful!” she says, and her eyes go wide with an infectious joy. “We were so happy because it seems like a major solution for some of the problems that we have.”

The super solar farm she imagines is huge, as big as the entire United States. And it would generate four times as much electricity as the entire planet consumes right now. Kalmay talks of novel high-capacity transmission lines delivering power to Europe and the rest of Africa.

I told her that the whole scenario sounds like science fiction. Kalnay disagreed. “It would be science fiction if the technology was not available,” she said.

“So you could imagine it?”

“Yes,” she said, confidently.

After all, she’s used to imagining the workings of the entire planet’s atmosphere.

A few billion solar panels and windmills in the desert? No big deal.

A number of investors have explored the possibility of large solar farms in the Sahara, though nowhere near as massive as the scenario that Kalnay has simulated. Those ideas, however, remain stuck on drawing boards.

Story By: Dan Charles, NPR

California is ready to remake the U.S. West — or at least its power grid.

The legislature is considering a plan to expand a grid serving 30 million Californians to encompass as many as 13 other Western states — if they choose to join the effort. The California Independent System Operator, which currently manages a $9.3 billion wholesale market, would cede authority to a regional body under the proposal, which requires federal approval.

“We are worried that California would have to give up its climate leadership in order to form a regional grid,” said Matthew Freedman, a lawyer for the Utility Reform Network. Under a regional system, the state would lose the ability to appoint all of the grid manager’s board members.

A regional grid would seek to unify the 38 different grid operators that span the West

Source: Western Electricity Coordinating Council

As state legislators consider whether to pass the bill by the end of next week, here’s a look at the challenges to making it happen:

Enron’s Ghost

A regional system could give way to the kind of market manipulations that Enron was infamous for in the early 2000s, exposing consumers to soaring energy costs, critics say.

“The ghost of the energy crisis is definitely haunting the whole conversation,” said Rick Umoff, the California director of state affairs for the Solar Energy Industries Association, which supports the regional grid bill. “There’s a fear of losing control.”

Consumer advocates warn that a single market could stick California’s electricity customers with the bill for an entire region if something goes awry.

“We are going to have a lot more of an opportunity for speculation and it is going to come at the expense of California consumers,” Consumer Watchdog’s Liza Tucker said.

Proponents say that a number of provisions have been put in place since the energy crisis to prevent market manipulation including enhanced federal enforcement and independent market monitors. “Speculators are quickly caught and punished,” said Carl Zichella, director of Western transmission for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The California Independent System Operator says the regional grid could actually save consumers as much as $1.5 billion a year by 2030, according to a report it commissioned that also indicated pollution could be reduced.

Federal Rule?

Another worry is the feds — whether a multistate system would leave California at the mercy of Trump administration appointees by increasing the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s oversight.

“Our concern is that the federal government could say, ‘We are going to put a thumb on the scale and make sure coal wins,’” said Travis Ritchie, an attorney for the Sierra Club, “because that’s what we are seeing in other parts of the country.”

The bill’s sponsor, Assemblymember Chris Holden, and the Natural Resources Defense Council say those fears are overblown. FERC already oversees California’s grid.

READ: Trump Proposes Unwinding Obama’s Coal-Plant Pollution Curbs

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday unveiled a plan that would dramatically weaken pollution limits on coal-fired power plants by shifting most of the regulatory burden to states in a further assault on the Obama climate legacy.

Conflicting Policies

But would greater federal involvement tether environmentally friendly California to policies designed to help coal states that don’t share Western clean-energy ambitions?

Some green-energy advocates like the Sierra Club think so, though Holden says the way it’s written ensures that the state will be able to pursue its own climate goals.

The governor of Utah — a coal-heavy state — has worried the opposite would happen, saying his state would be subject to California’s green energy mandates.

Who Joins?

Even if all the kinks get sorted out, the benefits of a regional grid could ultimately be limited if there aren’t enough participants or too many conditions are set.

For example, the Bonneville Power Administration, the giant Northwest hydropower marketer for the federal government that also operates transmission ties between California and Oregon, says it wouldn’t participate.

“A lot of folks are saying, ‘I don’t know if I’d want to join,’” said Dave Cherney, an energy policy expert for PA Consulting Group.

LAS VEGAS (KSNV) — A new solar project has been announced for the Nevada desert near Las Vegas, one that investors say will produce 690 megawatts of electricity.

Investment group Quinbrook Infrastructure Partners announced Monday the Gemini Solar Project, which will be built on federal land about 25 miles northeast of downtown Las Vegas.

According to a statement from Quinbrook, Gemini would be one of the largest solar projects in Nevada, with a combined capacity of 690 megawatts and 7,100 acres of solar panels, along with the option to include batteries.

The first phase of the project would connect with NV Energy’s Crystal Substation and provide power for the local grid, the investment group says. The second phase would be able to send power to customers in Nevada, Arizona and California.

“Gemini is a uniquely positioned project in close proximity to both Las Vegas and export connections to California and Arizona,” Jeff Hunter, senior managing director at Quinbrook, said in a statement. “Solar energy is on the rise in Nevada and is now being offered at historic low prices which is great news for retail consumers and local industry.”

The site is next to Interstate 15, close to the Apex Industrial Park and south of the Moapa Reservation.

The Bureau of Land Management is reviewing the environmental impact of the site, and a decision is expected by July 2019, with construction due to begin shortly afterward.

BLM officials say they are accepting public comment on the Gemini project through the end of August. Scoping meetings are also expected to be held the week of July 30.

by: Matthew Seeman
Source: News 3, Las Vegas

Remember Keystone XL, America’s favorite zombie pipeline? TransCanada’s long-resisted pipeline, intended to carry crude tar sand oil from Canada to Steele City, Nebraska, has been in the works since 2008, but construction still hasn’t started.

The project continues to be hit with protestslawsuits, and seemingly endless postponements. Activists are not giving up — and they’re using new and creative methods to fight the oil infrastructure.

Here’s a quick rundown of how environmental and indigenous rights activists are still building blockades.

Solar XL

This is a cheeky effort by a coalition of tribes, landowners, and activist groups to erect solar panels along the pipeline route. The panels generate energy for the local community, and would have to be removed in order for the pipeline to be built.

“The contracts say you can’t have any permanent buildings along the pipeline route,” says Jane Kleeb, founder of Bold Nebraska, a group that organizes farmers, ranchers, and tribes against the pipeline. “So TransCanada would be forced to remove them.” Destroying community-built solar installations to build an oil pipeline? Not the best look.

Solar XL is part of the broader work that tribal groups have been doing for years to go off the grid, says Faith Spotted Eagle, a member of the Yankton Sioux Nation in South Dakota and an organizer against the pipeline. “We’ve already been moving in the direction of solar,” she says. Planting those panels in the center of the pipeline path is the logical next step, Spotted Eagle points out.

Land rights

A husband and wife near Neligh, Nebraska, have further complicated the situation for TransCanada by selling a 1.6-acre plot of ancestral land to the Ponca tribe. The land, which has been used for the past five years for planting Ponca sacred corn, has now been returned to the tribe permanently.

This is likely to be particularly irritating to TransCanada, as they have pointedly avoided running the pipeline through any tribal lands. And they were already forced to reroute the pipeline away from environmentally sensitive areas. But now the Ponca owns property directly along the pipeline route — and they can use their special legal status as a tribe in future negotiations.

There are eminent domain battles brewing over the pipeline, too. Bold Nebraska has been connecting landowners who refuse to sign easements with attorneys, hoping to delay and challenge the implementation of TransCanada’s eminent domain claim for as long as possible. Kleeb estimates that around 20-25 percent of the pipeline route is “locked up” by owners who have pledged that they will not give over their land to TransCanada. (The company did not respond to requests for comment.)

In the courts

And — as is increasingly the case in climate and environmental conflicts — there are ongoing lawsuits. Although South Dakota’s Supreme Court shot down an appeal from activists on Thursday, there’s still hope for a similar appeal in Nebraska.

The Ponca tribe, Yankton Sioux tribe, and the Sierra Club filed documents in the Nebraska case three weeks ago, arguing that the Keystone XL will have dangerous impacts on the state’s environment and that the state public service commission violated due process in its original ruling.

The pipeline will also cross the Ponca’s “Trail of Tears,” the route taken by the tribe during their forcible removal by the federal government in the 1870s. This contested strip of land, the Ponca tribe argues, should be preserved for the public interest and for its religious and cultural significance.

The bottom line: There are many ways to skin a cat — or postpone a pipeline. Kleeb is hopeful that Keystone XL will never start construction. “They’re facing at least two years of legal challenge with Nebraska,” she says. “And if a Democratic president gets elected, they would reject the pipeline. There are a lot of factors on our side that support this never getting built.”

By: Shannon Osaka, Jun 18, 2018

In support of the Oceti Sakowin water protector camp next to the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota, California Solar Electric Company built a mobile solar power station. Designed and constructed by the California Solar team, solar installer Laura Parkes attended the fundraising event November 19 at the Grass Valley Elks Lodge. This event was held to raise funds for those opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).

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