Category Archives: Energy

Refuting climate change denial: renewable energy is the only hope

by Bill Haaf

Bill Haaf retired from DuPont after 38 yrs, after working as a chemist, Certified Industrial Hygienist, leader of site audits and the first corporate environmental audit, and global manager of Product Stewardship for 15 yrs. He is a Board member of Chester County Citizens 4 Climate Protection and has installed significant energy efficiency upgrades to his home to “walk the talk.”

I offer feedback on the Feb. 24 Daily Local News guest column by H. Sterling Burnett, a Heartland Institute senior fellow.

Both he and the Heartland Institute have a long history of climate change denial. However, he is a lone voice, as the world’s climate scientists disagree with him. NASA, NOAA, IPCC, WMO, UCS and 100 more worldwide scientific organizations all agree that burning fossil fuels is overheating the world.

It appears that Mr Burnett’s goal is to distort facts while attacking one solution to climate change. His goal of course is to try and help save the declining oil and natural gas industry. Mr Burnett, the oil and gas companies and lobby groups should become part of the solution, not contribute to overheating and its impacts. The crisis in Texas was a failure of natural gas and coal and only to a smaller degree of wind power.

Climate risk is the real issue here.

The very first issue that must be addressed whenever you discuss the value of various energy sources is risk. Are the risks managed? Are any unacceptable?

The worldwide scientific community has been in consensus for at least 25 yrs: burning fossil fuels is causing the planet to overheat with huge terrible impacts. I have put several well-documented significant risks below.

These risks are unacceptable both to humans and every life form (see references below):

– Sea levels will rise, forcing millions to evacuate coastal areas; storm surges will be larger and more damaging; storm strength will increase greatly;

– Huge areas of the world will be too hot to live or work in, forcing hundreds of millions to flee;

– Most global forest areas will become carbon emitters not carbon sinks, or die off.

– All insects and mammal will be impacted and risk extinction;

– Coral reefs and sea life that live there will die;

– All polar bears will die;

– Food crop yields will drop;

– Fish stocks will move and decrease;

– Oceans will warm and turn more acidic; ocean currents may weaken or relocate;

– Wildfires will increase greatly

However, the biggest concern is warming of the permafrost. Permafrost already is releasing much carbon dioxide and methane into the air. This feedback system is irreversible and threatens all human civilization.

Every person now 20 yrs or younger will face grave risks from a hot planet. It is very very difficult to reverse the heat gain. Continued burning of fossil fuels  endangers all our grandchildren.

The oil and gas industry MUST practice good product stewardship for products designed to be burned. The industry must begin the transition to avoid disaster and many human deaths. Employees need a fair and just transition path.

Here are some rebuttals to the erroneous data and logic regarding renewable energy used by Mr Burnett in his editorial.

1. Texas should have learned from the 2011 freeze-up power crisis. The wind turbines in Iowa or Minnesota or Canada perform well in very cold weather. The references below show that the joint failure of coal and natural gas was the major cause, but wind generation also had power loss. Failures in all power transmission contributed a lot to the problem. As low-cost wind and solar grow, the grid will need more cost-effective power storage. This could be large-scale batteries or pumped water, or renewable hydrogen or mechanical, or renewable methane or R-propane and dimethyl ether.

2. Great discussion by real energy experts in Texas:  In response to the unprecedented 254-county weather emergency in Texas and the subsequent loss of power to millions of Texans, the Advanced Power Alliance and Conservative Texans for Energy Innovation just hosted a forum of energy experts to assess two very important questions: What went wrong in Texas and what should be done about it.  Energy experts Alison Silverstein, Dr. Dan Cohan, Dr. Joshua Rhodes, and Michael Jewell offered observations on the interconnected causes of the energy crisis, and thoughts on ways Texas can avoid an event of this kind in the future.

3. “Fossil Freeze: Deadly Texas Catastrophe Shows How Natural Gas Systems Can Fail when Demand Spikes” by Sharon Kelly, February 26, 2021, here.

4.Fact check: The causes for Texas’ blackout go well beyond wind turbines” by Reuters Staff, February 19, 2021, here.

Going Net Zero – Jakob’s Solar Panel Installation

Paige Vermeulen introduces Jakob Speksnijder to viewers in front of his newly solar-enabled house

Interview with Jakob Speksnijder about his quest for Net Zero, moderated by Paige Vermeulen, produced by Claudio Productions, posted 2/18/21. Jakob’s advice: commit to the easy steps to reduce home energy use, such as insulation, composting, rain barrels, air dry clothes…. Read up on solar, the best home solution at this time, talk to people who have installed solar, and proceed! Solar, he said, costs only about half as much now as it did ten years ago. His next step will be to install high-capacity batteries to store the energy his solar array produces, and to take his home entirely off grid, so that his home will not use fossil fuels (and, of course, he will not fear the power outages that will probably become more frequent with increasingly extreme weather conditions). Click here to view.

RGGI: An Interview with Flora Cardoni

Harrisburg Lobby Day Event, advocating for 100% renewable energy in PA by 2050.

This interview was conducted by Nathaniel Smith by phone on 12/22/20 with Flora Cardoni, Field Director, PennEnvironment (at the mic in the photo). RGGI (the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, pronounced like the name Reggie) is a major avenue for the Commonwealth and people of Pennsylvania to do more in reducing carbon emissions.

How do you see the overall climate problem faced by PA and the world?

Climate change is our greatest existential threat at this time! Pennsylvania has played a historical role as a leader in the extraction of fossil fuels and fracked gas. Our legacy is now part of the worldwide greenhouse gas emissions problem. We’re already experiencing the impacts of climate change here in PA, including extreme weather events, more flash flooding, impaired air quality, excessive heat especially in urban areas, multiplication of harmful insects like Lyme-bearing ticks, loss of snow cover in ski resorts, and more. Impacts worldwide include widespread wildfires, hurricanes, and food insecurity, and these impacts will only worsen without action.

The science is clear: to stop the worst impacts of climate change, protect human health, and ensure a livable climate for future generations, we must transition away from fossil fuels like coal to 100% renewable energy. Polls show that a majority of Pennsylvanians want action to tackle climate change and we have the tools, technology, and policy to do so; all that’s lacking right now is the political will.

How does RGGI work?

RGGI is a “cap and invest” program that caps carbon pollution from power plants (not other sources). Carbon emitters pay a fee for their pollution, designed to offset the external harms of emissions, with the money then invested in energy conservation, renewable energy, home weatherization and insulation, and other measures, including extra help for low-income people. Over the years, the cap on carbon is lowered and utilities bid at auction for the right to use the amount remaining under the cap, with emissions continuing to decrease.

Pennsylvania is the 4th largest carbon-emitting state in the country, after Texas, California, and Florida. Nationwide, transportation is the largest source of carbon pollution but here in PA, it’s power plants — a real threat to our air quality and public health. RGGI is a critical step in reducing this harmful power plant pollution, lowering climate emissions, and protecting our health.

What has other states’ experience been with RGGI?

RGGI has had a huge track record of success over the last decade in many northeastern and mid-Atlantic states, from Maryland to Maine. Virginia and New Jersey are also in the process of joining.

RGGI has proven to be one of the country’s most successful programs to reduce carbon emissions. It has prevented about 100 million tons of carbon from going into the atmosphere each year while providing over $1.4 billion in net economic benefits in participating states.

By joining RGGI, Pennsylvania could cut over 188 million tons of carbon emissions by 2030 while creating 27,000 jobs and generating $2 billion for the state’s economy.

Please explain Governor Wolf’s initiative and the current hearings

RGGI can be joined by executive action, which in October 2019 the Governor announced he planned to do. That started the regulatory process: the PA Department of Environmental Protection developed a draft that it sent to the Environmental Quality Board, which adopted it as a proposed regulation. Now we are in the period for public comments, which will be taken into account and included in the official record. We hope the process will be completed in time for PA to join its first carbon auction in January 2022.

Unfortunately, despite the majority of Pennsylvanians supporting the state joining RGGI, the majority in the PA legislature passed House Bill 2025 last session, which would prevent the PA DEP from joining this program or regulating carbon emissions at all. Gov. Wolf, for whom RGGI is a high priority, vetoed that bill. But that obstructive maneuver will likely resurface early in 2021, and it’s important for legislators to hear the public pushing against that bill and for the many good climate and clean energy bills being held up in unresponsive committees.

What is PennEnvironment doing to help advance RGGI?

PennEnvironment and allied organizations are encouraging Pennsylvanians to make their voices heard in support of this program. About 70 PennEnvironment members and volunteers joined hundreds of Pennsylvanians who testified in the now-completed hearings, with 95% of total testifiers supporting RGGI. We are also working with volunteers to submit letters to the editors of local papers and with local elected officials to submit supportive comments. Finally, we’re collecting thousands of signatures and comments to submit during the comment period (closing date: January 14).

What do the power companies say?

The coal industry is against it, as coal is the most polluting fuel. The renewable energy industry naturally favors RGGI, and so do the operators of nuclear power plants, which do not emit carbon.

What is the situation with legislators in H’burg?

The legislature is divided. Many legislators oppose RGGI because fossil fuels have had such a large role here while others are supportive because they want climate action and cleaner air.

However, RGGI should not be a partisan issue and has received bipartisan support across the region. In Maryland, the Republican governor and Democratic-majority legislature support RGGI and speak highly of the program and all of its benefits. In southeastern PA, legislators of both parties are backing it as a commonsense program that will benefit our climate, health, and economy.

What are RGGI’s implications for jobs?

RGGI would create 27,000 PA jobs in renewable energy and supporting industries and add $12 billion to the state’s economy, not only from building the infrastructure of the future but also from spending carbon auction fees for purposes like home weatherization.

The program can also help pay for retraining workers in the coal industry, which has been in decline for many years. Making and funding a plan to protect workers and train them for new jobs will help many communities that today are disadvantaged — unlike the sudden 2019 closing of the Philadelphia oil refinery, which left over a thousand workers in the lurch.

Does RGGI have any implications for environmental and social justice?

Yes: RGGI would secure cleaner air for people living near power plants. Regulations should also ensure that new polluters don’t take the place of the old ones and that plants in environmental justice communities aren’t allowed to pollute more to offset reductions elsewhere. PA’s RGGI plan should stipulate reinvesting in lower income communities and energy assistance to those in need.

How would RGGI affect household and business costs?

Coal and oil pollution obliges us all to pay hidden costs such as added health costs, climate costs, and locally lower real estate values. RGGI will reduce those costs and, as renewable energy is phased in more prominently, electricity prices should be reduced. In fact, electricity prices have actually fallen by 5.7% in RGGI states – outperforming price levels in non-RGGI states. Solar and wind energy are already competitive, even with the subsidies and indirect costs still given to other power sources, and as they expand, electricity costs will drop even further.

Is renewable energy important in the future PA economy?

Yes, renewable energy is essential to Pennsylvania’s future! PA needs to not fall behind, but rather invest in and be a leader in the renewable energy future we all need and deserve.

What can people in PA do now?

By January 14, sign the petition in support of RGGI at bit.ly/RGGIforPA. You can also urge your community leaders and elected officials to support RGGI, write letters to the editor, and influence others on social media.

The more voices we can raise in support of climate action, the more likely it is that we can see this program to the finish line.

We Must Cut Carbon Emissions From Fossil Fuels To Zero By 2050 To Prevent Passing A Point From Which We Cannot Adapt

Salient quote: “The fact that the fossil industry plans to increase fossil fuel production despite this evidence is like refusing to wear a mask during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

By Richard Whiteford, Chesco resident, Independent Journalist & Climate Change Educator, in PA Environment Digest Blog, 12/31/20

The United Nations recently released the “Fossil Fuel Production Gap Report”, saying, “To follow a 1.5°C-consistent pathway, the world will need to decrease fossil fuel production by roughly 6 percent per year between 2020 and 2030. Countries are instead planning and projecting an average annual increase of 2 percent, which by 2030 would result in more than double the production consistent with the 1.5°C limit.”…

read more at PA Environment Digest Blog

Please support RGGI!

How?

  1. Sign the petition as an individual here
  2. Contact your state senator or representative
  3. Post info on your own social media
  4. Write a letter to the local press or a media outlet

RGGI is Pennsylvania’s best chance right now to cut its carbon emissions. RGGI is a market-based cap and trade plan that will not upset energy markets but will gradually put a fair price on the harm that carbon emissions inflict on the environment and human health.

See more info at the PA DEP site.

Ready For 100% Renewable Energy Campaign

We celebrate the exciting news that one of the Green Team’s leaders, Paula Kline, was voted in as a Community Leader Awardee of the SE PA regional 2020 Groundbreaker Awards, conferred on December 17, 2020. According to the Groundbreaker Awards web site:

“Paula ‘s Clean Energy Planning Series, Ready For 100 Communities initiative, provided best practice tools, training and ongoing support for 30 local municipalities, their Environmental Advisory Councils, and RF100 volunteers to develop individualized clean energy transition plans and understand energy use analysis. Over 80 participants learned how to improve building energy efficiency as a stepping stone to financing the tougher aspects of transitioning community energy sources to 100 percent renewable sources with equitable stakeholder engagement. Paula pulled together regional and national clean energy experts to present through 15 well-attended, highly interactive seminars. Despite the pandemic, the initiative trained community environmental and municipal leaders how to specifically plan in a cost effective manner saving taxpayer dollars through world class online technical energy concepts and community outreach best practices to engage their communities.”

Here, from the Sierra Club SE PA Group, is the list of Chesco municipalities that have already passed Ready for 100 resolutions: Phoenixville, Schuylkill, Uwchlan, Downingtown, West Chester, East Bradford, Kennett Twp, East Pikeland, Tredyffrin, West Vincent, Pocopson, Charlestown, West Whiteland.

See community appreciations of Paula in the 8th segment of the winners video here.

Photo from Schuylkill Township at the SE PA Sierra Club site (Paula is the 3rd from the left)

The lowdown on wood-burning stoves: They are dangerous!

Those of us who long for the simple rural life may wish to believe that burning wood in our homes is healthful. In fact, the resulting smoke reduces air quality and threatens the health of neighbors downwind of our chimneys and also in our own homes.

An article in The Guardian by Damian Carrington, “Wood burners triple harmful indoor air pollution, study finds” (Dec. 18, 2020), warns that:

“Wood burners triple the level of harmful pollution particles inside homes and should be sold with a health warning, say scientists, who also advise that they should not be used around elderly people or children.”

Especially when stove doors are opened to add wood, particles in smoke enter the living space and are breathed into the lungs, from where they are diffused through the body.

Not only that, but wood smoke “also contains carcinogenic chemicals including benzene and formaldehyde.”

We might think that wood smoke is natural and harmless, but “There is no reason to believe that particulate matter from wood-burning stoves is less toxic than that from other sources, such as combustion of fossil fuels.”

And open-air fires in fireplaces are even worse, for both inside and outside air quality.

See details and links in The Guardian.

And then there is the problem of disposing of ashes, which may still be live and cause smoke or fire; and excessive heat can degrade structural wood near the stove and increase the likelihood of a house fire.

Guide to having a “Net Zero” house and other energy tips

A local company, Belmont Solar, has posted a very helpful guide, “Net Zero House: The Definitive Guide to Energy Savings,” to achieving Net Zero energy status, including good tips for any home and helpful links.

The guide shows homeowners how to reduce their carbon footprint and their monthly energy bills, and ideally not only to rely entirely on their own energy output but to receive payments from the utility company.

What is a Net Zero house? It is “so energy efficient that it produces as much renewable energy (on or off site) as it consumes, making it a self-sustainable structure that is carbon-neutral.”

In addition to using renewable energy, “Going Net Zero involves superior building construction, utilizing new technology, practicing energy saving tips, and thinking outside the box.”

A few other details:

• Yes, a 26% federal tax credit still exists.

• Energy savings and renewable systems increase home market value.

• Homes can sell their excess energy production to the utility company and/or store it in batteries (whose technology is advancing rapidly).

• Insulation is really important for any home!

• So easy to do: turn off electronic devices when not in use! Those eat up electricity supposedly for your convenience, so you don’t have to wait a few seconds. Those energy stealers include entertainment systems, cable boxes, video game systems, televisions, audio systems, routers, and phones.

• Heating efficiency: ductless mini splits, smart thermostats, energy-efficient appliances.

• Rainwater harvesting, composting, and recycling also save energy, whether your own or the community’s.

Check out the full article, or see any chapter:

Chapter 1: What is a Net Zero House?

Chapter 2: Why is a Net Zero House Important?

hapter 3: How Do I Get to a Net Zero House?

Chapter 4: Installing a Clean Energy Source For Your Net Zero House – Solar Panels

Chapter 5: Insulation for a Net Zero House

Chapter 6: Reducing Phantom Loads in Your Net Zero House

Chapter 7: Energy Saving Systems and Appliances for a Net Zero House

Chapter 8: Additional Energy Saving Tips and Practices for Your Net Zero House

4CP newsletter, September 2020: the Good and the Not-So-Good

To subscribe to the Chester County Citizens for Climate Protection (4CP) newsletter, email here.  We hope you find it informative. 

THE GOOD NEWS

Microsoft will be carbon negative by 2030 (see here)

“The scientific consensus is clear. The world confronts an urgent carbon problem. The carbon in our atmosphere has created a blanket of gas that traps heat and is changing the world’s climate. Already, the planet’s temperature has risen by 1 degree centigrade. If we don’t curb emissions, and temperatures continue to climb, science tells us that the results will be catastrophic.”

Microsoft is not just to reducing its emissions but going carbon negative, wiping out all the carbon the company and its suppliers have emitted since its founding in 1975. Microsoft has set a new bar for what is considered climate leadership.   

It is a big deal. The company is setting new standards, especially in the rigor and transparency it is applying to the effort, and it is deliberately attempting to bring other companies, both suppliers and competitors, along with it into a world of shared metrics and data. First, some background. 

A quick note on kinds of emissions

In the carbon world, the emissions of a company can be divided into three buckets:

  • Scope 1 emissions come directly from resources the business owns or controls, like furnaces or delivery vehicles.
  • Scope 2 emissions come from the power plants that generate the electricity the business uses.
  • Scope 3 emissions are indirect, “embedded” in the materials and services the business uses, representing the emissions of the full supply chain including products.  This is significant, because for most companies, including Microsoft, scope 3 emissions are substantially larger than scope 1 and 2 combined.

“At Microsoft, we expect to emit 16 million metric tons of carbon this year,” according to president Brad Smith. “Of this total, about 100,000 are scope 1 emissions and about 4 million are scope 2 emissions. The remaining 12 million tons all fall into scope 3. Given the wide range of scope 3 activities, this higher percentage of the total is probably typical for most organizations.”

Microsoft just announced it has completed the largest-ever test running data center servers on hydrogen fuel cells, which can be powered by zero-carbon hydrogen generated from renewable energy. Currently, data centers have diesel generators on site for long-term backup in case of an outage. Power Innovations built a 250-kilowatt fuel cell system to help Microsoft explore the potential of using a hydrogen fuel cells for backup power generation at data centers. In a proof of concept, the system powered a row of servers for 48 consecutive hours.…  With 160 data centers worldwide and multiple generators per data center, that adds up to a lot of diesel generators. The company has pledged to phase them all out by 2030. That’s why it is testing fuel cells as backup power.

In January, Microsoft made a startling announcement: Not only will it reduce its scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions by 55 %; it will continue beyond that and go carbon negative, drawing down more carbon than it emits, by 2030. By 2050, it will draw down enough carbon to account for all the company’s emissions since its founding in 1975.

The January announcement, which came from Smith, the company’s president, backed by CFO Amy Hood and CEO Satya Nadella, laid out a set of principles that would guide the company’s approach [every company should have the equivalent!]:

  1. Grounding in science and math
  2. Taking responsibility for our carbon footprint
  3. Investing for new carbon reduction and removal technology
  4. Empowering customers around the world
  5. Ensuring effective transparency
  6. Using our voice on carbon-related public policy issues
  7. Enlisting our employees

It is now moving to a model where it directly contracts with renewable projects through power purchase agreements (PPAs). it is aiming to hit net zero for its scope 1 and 2 emissions by 2025 — and will compensate for what it can’t directly reduce with negative emissions.

As for No. 3, the company announced it will establish an investment fund that will target early-stage clean energy technologies, aiming to spend $1 billion over the next four years. A billion dollars in VC money is nothing to sneeze at. Nor is the signal Microsoft has sent to other companies by committing to a goal it admits it does not yet have the technology to achieve. It says going carbon negative will require “negative emission technologies (NET) potentially including afforestation and reforestation, soil carbon sequestration, bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS), and direct air capture (DAC).”

Some of those technologies don’t exist at meaningful scale yet, and Microsoft is making a concerted effort to accelerate them. Especially if it can inspire other companies to make similar investments. Amazon announced a $2 billion climate fund in June — the spillover effects will help boost the entire sector.

Microsoft chief environmental officer Lucas Joppa published an update on Microsoft’s progress. First, Microsoft is joining with nine other large companies — A.P. Moller-Maersk, Danone, Mercedes-Benz, AG, Natura & Co, Nike, Starbucks, Unilever, and Wipro, along with the EDF (Environmental Defense Fund), in Transform to Net Zero, “a cross-sector initiative to accelerate the transition to a net zero global economy.”

“Someday, CO2 removal will be fully commoditized,” says Julio Friedmann, a carbon researcher at the Center for Global Energy Policy at Columbia University, who has helped advise Microsoft on its RFP. “These actions help put us on that course.”

The same day Microsoft published its updates on progress, Apple announced that it would aim to be “carbon neutral across its entire business, manufacturing supply chain, and product life cycle by 2030,” an astonishing goal for a company that manufactures, ships, and disposes of so many devices. “Apple has said their suppliers will all run on renewable energy,” says Bartlett. “It set targets for them.”  Since 2014, Apple has purchased enough renewable energy to offset the usage of all its data centers.  (See here.)

The London-based BritishPetroleum said that it will transform itself by halting oil and gas exploration in new countries, slashing oil and gas production by 40 %, lowering carbon emissions by about a third, and boosting capital spending on low-carbon energy tenfold to $5 billion a year. “This makes the BP the first supermajor to spell out, in detail, what the energy transition will actually entail, in practical terms.” Investment in low-carbon initiatives is set to jump to more than $3 billion by 2025 and $5 billion by 2030, “en route to 50 gigawatts of renewable generation capacity by 2030 alongside scale-up of other clean tech businesses.” And it also will build on its retail gasoline station chain to offer recharging to electric vehicles along with convenience items such as food. 

Nicely reviewed in this short video.

BYD (Build Your Dreams), the world’s leading electric vehicle company with proven innovative technology for cars, buses, trucks, forklifts, and rail systems like SkyRail. BYD is dedicated to creating a truly zero-emission ecosystem offering technology for solar electricity generation, energy storage to save that electricity, and battery-electric vehicles powered by that clean energy. BYD has 220,000 employees across the globe, including nearly 1,000 in North America.  It has completed the delivery of 10 battery-electric K9S buses to Link Transit in Wenatchee, Washington. They will join 8 already in use. In 2018, Link Transit commissioned the nation’s first 200-kilowatt wireless charging system for a battery-electric transit bus from Chester County Momentum Dynamics. The system has been operational on a BYD K9S bus since then. See picture at end.

Malvern 4 min video Wireless charging for electric vehicles. Momentum Dynamics is the market leader. A modular platform technology capable of spanning across multiple vehicle types automatically and without a plug. Up to 450kW systems means faster charging and more miles per minute while charging at > 90% efficiency.

Killer Heat by Congressional District: New Map and Fact Sheets Show What’s at stake.   A new map tool from the Union of Concerned Scientists lets you explore how the frequency and severity of extreme heat are projected to change in your Congressional district in response to global warming. Through the tool, you can download district-specific fact sheets in English or Spanish that show the risks your district faces.  Explore the interactive map.

Rolling blackouts California: 

As we review the issue; lets remember that climate change is causing more heat and we will only  get hotter, resulting in more AC use for longer periods and more wildfires ..

Yes, moving to renewables has problems and we need lots more battery storage and to keep those nuclear plants running.  But burning more CH4  means an even hotter planet with more dead people; dead trees ; dead fish & extinct polar bears.

There were 3 articles in the Wall Street Journal on the rolling blackouts in California.  All three are linked below in order.

WSJ, 18 August 2020, page A18, “Millions in California Stand to Lose Power” = news article.

WSJ, 19 August 2020, page A17, “If You Like Lockdowns, You’ll Love the Carbon-Free Future” = op-ed designed to make renewables look bad.

And then the op-ed piece, WSJ, 20 August 2020, page A16, “California’s Green Blackouts“. This is an opinion piece not news reporting.

The California Independent System Operator’s (CAISO) update about the Saturday outage:

“FOLSOM, Calif. – The California Independent System Operator (ISO) declared a Stage 3 Electrical Emergency at 6:28 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 15, due to increased electricity demand, the unexpected loss of a 470-megawatt (MW) power plant, and loss of nearly 1,000 MW of wind power. The load was ordered back online 20 minutes later at 6:48 p.m., as wind resources increased.

“A Stage 3 Emergency is declared when demand begins to outpace available supply, and grid operators need to tap electricity reserves to balance the grid. Rotating power interruptions of about 470 MW were initiated across the state.”

Please note the first failure was a gas turbine power plant, and that the outages stopped as wind resources increased that evening.  The rolling blackouts covered the unexpected 470 MW capacity drop from the gas plant.

“In their letter, the regulators pointed to two factors that they think played a role: capacity shortfalls, as well as California’s heavy reliance on importing resources to meet its energy demand during late afternoons and early evenings in the summer. 

But one factor that they said did not cause the rotating outages is California’s broader transition to renewable energy, noting that their organizations understand the impacts of wind and solar on the grid and have taken steps to integrate the resources – although there’s clearly a need to do more.

So moving to renewables is not the root of the problems

– It’s capacity planning and management.

It’s rushing some shutdowns without fully modeling the entire grid.

It’s using infrastructure built in cooler times with lower populations in the desert Southwest.

 It’s depending on hydro during extensive drought and energy imports from states suffering the same heatwave and with larger populations than the past.

  • Note, too, that these were the first rolling blackouts during two decades of energy transition, and happened during an extraordinary regional heatwave — a precursor of things to come.

Remember too that the first issue on August 15 was the sudden drop of a gas power plant . Too often the opinion writers at WSJ and elsewhere point out that wind and solar requires backup capacity, somehow failing to add that so do all other generation sources on the grid — coal, gas, nuclear, hydro, whatever. 

More batteries will help with stabilizing power, and do it faster and more accurately than peaker plants and spinning reserves. Batteries (in cars or fixed-place) will also store daytime solar for use at evening peaks, and use nighttime wind more efficiently, too.

Thermal plants, whether fossil or nuclear, also get stressed in high temperatures (or hurricanes or ice storms) , precisely when needed most, and for coal and nuclear, cooling water is sometimes another cause of unscheduled emergency shutdowns the rest of the grid needs to make up for.

We have to replace our aging power infrastructure. California should keep the Diablo nuclear plant up during that transition, but should also look at improving transmission and hardening local infrastructure.  As EVs and their batteries become virtual power plants, they’ll be able to smooth demand spikes. As the new grid matures, they’d also be able to help local areas run in island mode if the larger transmission grid overloads. 

Higher temperatures and bigger populations will only make the stress on big AC lines increase. More HVDC interconnects will also improve the situation nationally, with the bonus that HVDC cables use the entire cable to carry power, so are less subject to heat stress compared to AC lines.  Sag is one cause of the fires and outages.

Hiding costs of damage from a product is not honest market capitalism, but unfortunately, it runs rampant here. We need to get away from that.  More fossil fuel use in California would make their problems worse, not better.  They should transition carefully, but not go in reverse.

THE NOT-SO-GOOD NEWS

Trump EPA Plows Ahead With ‘Mind-Bogglingly Stupid and Destructive’ Rollback of Methane Emissions Rules: The new EPA policies effectively free fossil companies “from the need to detect and repair methane leaks—even as new research shows that far more of the potent greenhouse gas is seeping into the atmosphere than previously known,” the New York Times says. “Over the past few years there has been an explosion of new research on this, and the literature has coalesced — 80% of papers show that methane from oil and gas leaks is two to three times higher than the EPA’s estimates,” — Robert Howarth,  at Cornell University.

“It’s crazy to roll back this rule,” warned Howarth, who last year published a study on North American gas production and methane emissions. “Twenty-five % of the human-caused warming over the past 20 years is due to methane. Methane is going up. We need it to go down.”

SOILS : We already know that the Permafrost (land frozen at least 2 years) is warming and the microbes are releasing CO2 & CH4.  This change is irreversible.  And could lead to overheating the planet even if we stop burning fossil fuelsNOW: Warming soils in the tropics could cause microbes to release carbon dioxide from storage. One scientist called the finding “another example of why we need to worry more.” 

-An experiment that heated soil underneath a tropical rainforest to mimic temperatures expected in the coming decades found that hotter soils released 55% more planet-warming carbon dioxide than did nearby unwarmed areas. If the results apply throughout the tropics, much of the carbon stored underground could be released as the planet heats up. By warming only the soil, the Barro Colorado Island experiment did not capture how plants would fare under warmer conditions, If plants were to photosynthesize more, for example, they could take up some of the carbon dioxide that soils release, making the overall impact on the climate less severe. Maybe... maybe not.

Greenland: Past point of no return or just close to the cliff? Nature Communications Earth and Environment: “Greenland’s glaciers have passed a tipping point of sorts, where the snowfall that replenishes the ice sheet each year cannot keep up with the ice that is flowing into the ocean from glaciers.” “We’ve been looking at these remote sensing observations to study how ice discharge and accumulation have varied,” said Michalea King, lead author of the study at Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center. “And what we’ve found is that the ice that’s discharging into the ocean is far surpassing the snow that’s accumulating on the surface of the ice sheet.” King and other researchers analyzed monthly satellite data from more than 200 large glaciers draining into the ocean around Greenland.

While Greenland ice loss is very concerning, other experts state the tipping point is not yet reached. Richard Alley (Penn state) provides context: “models show… sustained temperature above some threshold will cause  ice sheet to lose most of its mass, but warming to date… probably not enough.”  Modeling study looked in detail at the thresholds involved, suggested that the threshold for complete loss is somewhere between 1º and 3ºC above pre-industrial (best estimate was ~1.6ºC).  So Greenland is headed toward the cliff but not over yet.

The Trump Administration on Aug  17 finalized its plan to open up part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas development, a move that overturns six decades of protections for the largest remaining stretch of wilderness in the United States. The decision sets the stage for what is expected to be a fierce legal battle over the fate of the refuge’s vast, remote coastal plain, which is believed to sit atop billions of barrels of oil but is also home to polar bears and migrating herds of caribou.  Senator Dan Sullivan, Republican of Alaska: “Today, we are one step closer to securing a bright future for these Alaskans and their families.”

Interior Department downplayed the risks of climate change in its review. For example, the agency estimated that the refuge could produce as many as 10 billion barrels of oil over its lifetime, but argued that the effect on greenhouse gas emissions would be minimal, since most of that oil would simply displace oil being produced elsewhere in the country.

In comments submitted to the agency, the attorneys general from 15 states, including New York, called this displacement theory “completely unsupported” (NYTimes).

   

BYD is suppling Electric buses worldwide. These are in Spain.

From Ground-Source to Rooftops, From Blower Doors to Net-Zero: The 2019 Clean Energy Tour in Chester County

By Jim Wylie & Paula Kline, The Sylvanian, Winter 2019 Southeastern PA Sierra Club Newsletter, December 13, 2019

On October 19, 2019, Ready for 100/Chester County hosted a tour on the National Solar Tour. We visited 35 sites, covering the better part of the whole county, and welcomed over 200 participants at installed and operation examples of:

  •  Rooftop residential solar systems
  •  Battery storage systems
  • Large commercial solar operations – including a 1.1 MW array at a mushroom farm
  • Green roofs
  • Ground-source heat pumps
  • Air-source heat pumps (owner installed)
  • Net-zero, passive solar homes
  • Solar powered robotic lawnmowers
  • Renewable gas producing digesters
  • Home energy efficiency measures – including an in-progress blower door test by PECO Home Energy Assessments program
  • Electric vehicles and charging stations
  • And much more

The post-tour celebration

The Chester County Clean Energy Tour of 2019 was the culmination of a vision by Paula Kline, Ready For 100/Chester County team leader. Paula committed to joining the national solar tour in the spring of 2019 and spent eight months lining up volunteers (about 15), endorsements from elected officials and energy related organizations and sponsors (commercial) and co-sponsors (env orgs). A huge undertaking that ultimately included four kickoff sites with hosts and presenters and visual materials that can be used for future renewable energy related events….

read more in The Sylvanian