Monthly Archives: August 2012

Grand Plan May Settle the Solar Siting Paradox

Remote deserts would seem to be the ideal place for Big Solar — were it only that simple

Can threatened tortoises and utility-scale solar plants coexist in the California desert? Since the solar rush began a few years ago, results have been discouraging. But an ambitious new plan aims to strike a long-lasting compromise. Northern Californians get a chance to weigh in on the process at a public meeting in Sacramento on Wednesday, September 5.

BrightSource Energy

The sprawling Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System is scheduled to go online next year.

The Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan — just call it the DRECP — is designed to establish habitat protection guidelines for dozens of species, not just the elusive desert tortoise, across an incredible 22.5 million acres of desert caught in the crossfire between conservation and clean energy. Continue reading

California Air Board Relents on College Carbon Credits

Universities could be getting some last-minute relief from cap-and-trade

Many state college campuses have "cogeneration" facilities subject to fees under cap & trade.

California universities appear to be in line for some relief from the state’s imminent carbon pollution fees.

Implementation of California’s controversial cap-and-trade program for greenhouse gases is only four months away, meaning it’s crunch time for the state’s Air Resources Board. On Thursday, the board will stage a dry run offering likely participants an opportunity to practice bidding on California carbon allowances — and allowing the ARB a chance to test its platform.

Not like it doesn’t already have its hands full. For months, cap-and-trade-eligible emitters including private businesses, military bases, universities, and waste-to-energy power-plant operators have been crying for exemptions under AB 32, arguing that they would suffer undue financial hardships. Continue reading

Why Wildfires Are Burning Bigger and Hotter

A century of fire suppression means there are more trees to burn, and they burn more dramatically

This has been a devastating wildfire season. Nationwide, more acres have burned this summer than at this time in any other year on record. In May and June, New Mexico weathered the largest fire in its history. Hundreds of homes and tens of thousands of acres have burned in Colorado. As the summer wears on, fire season has moved west — as it tends to do – and now the Ponderosa Fire is raging near Redding.

Has it always been like this? A new NPR series by Christopher Joyce explores what a century of fire suppression has meant for forests in the Southwest.


Continue reading

California Powers Up Plan for Waste-to-Watts

Energy from trash and fewer catastrophic fires? What’s the catch?

California Energy Commission

A wood-burning power plant in Northern California. In 2007, "biomass" energy accounted for roughly 2.1 percent of California energy production. A new state bioenergy plan seeks to substantially increase that percentage.

Wood scraps, animal manure, household garbage and other wastes may soon fuel a sweeping “clean energy” initiative in California, if the collective vision of several state agencies comes to pass.

This week, the state announced its 2012 Bioenergy Action Plan [PDF], which promotes an array of organic materials as a large and untapped fuel source for an energy-hungry state.

“Swift action on bioenergy will create jobs, increase local clean energy supplies, and help businesses grow in California,” said resources agency secretary John Laird in a Department of Natural Resources release. Currently, the bioenergy sector employs roughly 5,000 people and contributes $575 million to the state economy; the agency estimates the new plan could create an additional 4,000 jobs statewide. Continue reading

Quick Link: Romney Rolls Out His Plan for Energy Independence

Plays up North American oil production, plays down everything else

Mitt Romney’s energy plan calls for increasing offshore drilling, letting states oversee energy production–rather than the federal government–and building the Keystone XL pipeline.


Mitt Romney will unveil an energy plan Thursday that he says will allow North America to be energy independent by 2020 and decrease costs to consumers by increasing domestic production. The plan, released to reporters Wednesday, includes approving the Keystone XL pipeline bringing oil from Canada to Texas – President Obama has put off a decision until after the election – and increasing domestic production to spur job growth.

Read more at: www.latimes.com

Study: Urban Water Use Will Outpace Efficiency Gains

But returning to “Hollywood” showers will just make things worse

Craig Miller

Californians may want to rethink the long-established tradition of watering the sidewalk.

You installed a low-flow toilet. You take fast showers. Your yard is water-wise and drought-tolerant. And even if everyone in California were just like you, which they’re not — yet — the state would still see a significant bump in urban water demand by the end of the century. The culprit: warmer temperatures caused by climate change.

An innovative new model developed by researchers at Oakland’s Pacific Institute shows that even if California meets its current goal of reducing per-capita water usage 20 percent by 2020 — and continues to improve water efficiency at a similar rate through the end of the century — still, by 2100 the state’s urban water demand will increase by eight percent, or roughly one million acre-feet (with all other factors held constant). That’s a lot of water: enough to satisfy the current household needs of 6.7 million Californians. Continue reading

Shifting Sands: San Francisco Begins Huge Erosion-Control Project

Ocean Beach has too much sand on one end, too little on the other

Molly Samuel/KQED

Trucks are moving sand from the north end of Ocean Beach to the south end.

Portions of San Francisco’s historic Great Highway are closed for a massive sand-moving project, part of an effort to slow erosion along the stretch of Pacific coastline known as Ocean Beach. By the end of the project, trucks will have moved about 100,000 cubic yards of sand.

“It’s the equivalent of 31 Olympic-sized swimming pools,” said Tyrone Jue, spokesman for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. “It’s a lot of sand that we’re having to move in a short period of time and that’s why we’re closing down the lanes of the Great Highway to accommodate the truck traffic.” Continue reading

Fast Lane for California Wind Energy — But for How Long?

Federal incentives can hasten development–or slow it down

By Nate Seltenrich

Craig Miller

Last year brought a fresh breeze for wind energy, and projections indicate that 2012 will be even better. But over the next two years, a variety of forces could conspire to hamper wind energy development across the United States, despite a significant decline in the cost. These are the main findings of a new report by the US Department of Energy and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

It’s that classic good news-bad news scenario: should proponents focus on the fact that in 2011 wind energy became cheaper, more efficient, and more widely distributed than ever? Or should they dwell on the looming challenges, including steep competition from cheap natural gas, inadequate high-voltage transmission in many parts of the country, and the possible expiration of federal incentives at the end of the year? Continue reading

12 Million Californians ‘Highly Vulnerable’ to Climate Change — Now What?

Color-coding climate risks in the Golden State

Tim Walton / Photo One

Wildfires can leave little to salvage for homeowners caught in harm's way.

Climate change will disproportionately affect California’s most disadvantaged and isolated communities, according to a recent report from the Pacific Institute.

By looking at a broad array of factors – from social indicators such as income and birth rates, to environmental ones such as tree cover and impervious surfaces – the Oakland-based think tank has found that 12.4 million Californians live in census tracts with high “social vulnerability” to climate change.

This vulnerability can play out in various ways, says Heather Cooley, co-director of the institute’s water program and a lead author of the report. “In low-income communities, many people may not have insurance,” Cooley told me. “So when a flood or fire hits their homes, they may not be able to rebuild. If they’re suffering from a heat-related illness, they may not be able to seek treatment and their health may deteriorate as a result.” Continue reading