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People can’t get enough of Tesla’s new batteries

By Suzanne Jacobs on 8 May 2015

World’s chillest billionaire Elon Musk announced this week that demand for his new energy storage devices is “crazy off-the-hook.”

According to Bloomberg Business, Musk’s new home- and utility-scale battery business, Tesla Energy, has already received about $800 million in reservations — an impressive number, given that Musk just unveiled Tesla Energy a week ago. But Bloomberg warns that, for now, it’s just a number:

Before anyone gets too excited, it’s important to note the biggest caveat: reservations don’t necessarily convert to sales. That’s especially true for the home storage batteries sold under the name Powerwall. Anyone can go online and place a reservation, years in advance, with no money down and no commitment to buy. To reserve a Tesla Model X vehicle, by contrast, requires $5,000 up front. Tesla declined to clarify what constitutes a “reservation” for a business or utility-scale project.

Still, the buzz is encouraging. Since the whole point of Tesla Energy is, essentially, to hurry us to the day we can all live in a solar-powered utopia, it’s good to know that the demand for said utopia is high enough to sell out these new batteries through mid-2016. (To their credit, utility companies have also been working on better batteries; they just haven’t had much success — they also lack the charisma of Musk, a.k.a. the real life Iron Man.)

Here’s a taste of what that $800 million number includes:

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Lightfair 2015: It’s Not an LED Light—It’s a Trojan Horse

Networked lighting and the internet-of-things are “at the peak of inflated expectation.”

Katherine Tweed
May 8, 2015

When Simon Property Group chose Sensity Systems to supply LEDs for some of its parking lots, it was buying solid-state lighting primarily for the energy savings. But the mall company was also interested in the possibility of leveraging sensor nodes on the lights for things like measuring snowfall depth for more efficient plowing and leveraging video to enable smarter parking for its customers.

It's that type of futuristic internet-of-things product that was front and center at Lightfair International in New York City this year.

Networked LEDs are often touted as the critical nodes to smarter built environments, from individual buildings to entire cities. After all, lights are everywhere. From identifying a burgeoning vermin infestation in a warehouse, to helping hospitals more quickly locate crash carts, to first responders being able to visually assess an emergency as they are en route to it, the promise of LEDs was depicted as limitless during pitch sessions at the show.

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Flood Of Shale Gas Spilling Into Communities Across America

Ken Silverstein Contributor

I write about the global energy business.

Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

BUSINESS 5/10/2015 @ 9:17AM 16,808 views


Not many years ago, the U.S. steel industry found itself losing ground.

U.S. Steel Corp., the country’s largest producer, still had billions of dollars in revenue, but had posted large losses for three consecutive years. Meanwhile, China was offering cheaper labor and an abundance of the raw materials used to make steel. As a result, the World Steel Association reported that Chinese production of steel increased 57 percent between 2007 and 2013, while American production during that time period declined by 11 percent.

But then came the domestic shale gas boom, which has put the American steel industry back in the business of making pipes for drilling rigs and new pipelines.

The steel industry’s resurrection has been punctuated by developments like U.S. steel titan Nucor Corp.’s $750 million investment in an iron-ore facility in St. James Parish, Louisiana. The company opened the facility in 2013 to strip oxygen from iron ore — an energy-intensive manufacturing process that in an earlier era had left the United States for global regions that could power the plants more cheaply. When fully operational, the plant will be one of the most productive steel-making facilities in the world, generating around 2.5 million tons per year.

“We believe the shale gas revolution is a game-changer for energy intensive industries and the entire manufacturing sector,” says Katherine Miller, a Nucor spokeswoman. “Low natural gas prices are spurring new manufacturing investment and creating jobs.”

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Sustainable investment conference takes on fossil-fuel divestment

By Mark Jaffe

The Denver Post

POSTED:   05/07/2015 05:22:35 PM MDT

UPDATED:   05/08/2015 12:09:12 AM MDT

The University of Colorado may not be ready to scrub its endowment of fossil fuel company stocks but the divestment push among universities and foundations is spreading, speakers at a conference in Denver said Thursday.

In just four years the divest movement has reached about 700 college campuses and 90 foundation endowments.

"This has moved very fast," said Ellen Dorsey, executive director of the Wallace Global Fund, which provides grants to environmental initiatives and has sold all its investments related to fossil fuels.

The aim is to get institutions to divest from the top 200 coal, oil and natural gas companies.

In April, the University of Colorado's Board of Regents voted 7-2 — over student protests — not to change its investment practices

The two-day divestment and sustainable investment conference drew more than 75 fund managers, university and foundation trustees, and investment specialists.

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Mom power helps compel change around Colorado oil, gas operations

By Mark Jaffe

The Denver Post

POSTED:   05/10/2015 12:01:00 AM MDT


Shawndra Barry, who has been battling an oil and gas operation in her neighborhood, says the company wanted to use her family's private road for a drilling project east of Fort Collins. "I know she moved me. ... She should run for office," Gov. John Hickenlooper said of meeting with Barry. (AAron Ontiveroz, The Denver Post)

When Trisha Golding gets dressed up in business clothes, her two daughters say, "Mommy's going to do oil and gas."

After a driller proposed putting 19 oil and gas wells within 900 feet of the Greeley school where her older daughter attends second grade, Golding, 38, turned from stay-at-home mom into a regular at oil and gas hearings and meetings.

"This is not something I want to do," she said, "but you want your children to be safe."

Front Range moms who, like Golding, are worried about the impact of oil and gas drilling on their families, have been stepping up to microphones in local and state meetings across Colorado.

"These women have become reluctant experts on oil and gas," said Matt Sura, an attorney who represents communities and homeowners in dealings with oil and gas companies. "They have taken the time to learn the issues, and they are slowly convincing people in state government, and in the oil and gas industry itself, that things have to change."

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Scientists probe the dynamics of Texas ‘earthquake country’ (+video)

A series of cluster earthquakes rattled the Dallas area this week – the fourth such cluster in Texas since 2009. All have occurred in areas with sizable and growing fracking operations.

By Patrik Jonsson, Staff writer MAY 9, 2015

ATLANTA — Yet another in a series of cluster earthquakes rattled the Dallas area on Thursday, the size of which only intensified a subterranean quest to find out how parts of Texas have become “earthquake country.”

The state has seen four separate earthquake clusters appear since 2009, two of them that overlay the Dallas metropolitan area, where last weeks’ magnitude 4 quake was felt. Thursday’s temblor was the 23rd since 2009 around a fault near Midlothian, Tex., and fifth in that cluster to exceed magnitude 3, which means it can be felt by people but causes minimal damage. Thursday's earthquake was felt miles from the epicenter, causing noticeable shaking of indoor objects.

The big quake only fueled lobbying in Austin for a proposed $2.6 million seismic monitoring program in order to inject more data into a growing discussion over the earth-rattling impact of America’s unconventional energy production. A bigger question for Texas may be: How much earth-rattling is acceptable to keep Texas oil and gas flowing?

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Grabbing Paddles in Seattle to Ward Off an Oil Giant




Activists trained on kayaks last week in Puget Sound in advance of a floating protest of Royal Dutch Shell in the Port of Seattle.

Credit   David Ryder for The New York Times

SEATTLE — A dozen or so men and women, cinched into life jackets, paddles at the ready, were about to launch their kayaks into Elliott Bay early Thursday evening with Seattle’s glittering skyline as the backdrop. For some of the paddlers, it was a first-time experience, and with the water at 50 degrees and choppy, there were some obvious signs of trepidation.

“O.K., what hazards are we watching for?” Elizabeth Chiaravalli, their instructor, shouted, and a smattering of answers immediately bounced back. “The waves!” “The dock!” “The pilings!”

Then Cynthia Orr, a 67-year-old mental health counselor, spoke up. “Shell Oil!” she cried, standing by her boat. Her fellow kayakers — or kayaktivists, as they call themselves — roared.

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Why Rate Reform Is a Better Solution to Distributed Solar Than Eliminating Net Metering

Shayle Kann of GTM Research dissects MIT’s recent Future of Solar report.

Shayle Kann
May 11, 2015

Last week, a group of researchers at the MIT Energy Initiative released a sweeping 332-page study called The Future of Solar Energy. The report projects a grand future for solar as a major long-term driver of greenhouse gas reductions and is bullish on the prospects for centralized solar.

But on the matter of distributed solar the report has a different view -- calling today’s net energy metering policies a “subsidy” that would be better removed from the market.

This is a controversial issue in both the solar industry and among utilities, and some might be tempted to log this report in along with the many other reports on the costs and benefits of net energy metering for which the findings vary widely. Still, I think it is worth examining this latest research more closely, because it does have something to say about how distributed solar should be compensated and how electricity rates should be structured. But my conclusions are not the same as the report’s headlines might suggest.

Does rooftop solar cost other ratepayers?

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Who controls California’s tap? Here’s what I learned from a fat book

By Nathanael Johnson on 11 May 2015 8:38 am

Like lots of people in drought-desiccated California, I have been hustling to educate myself about the power dynamics of water in the state. And so I read this appreciation of California water historian, Norris Hundley, Jr., with great interest. It portrays Hundley as the historian whose picture is the most realistic — the one who surveyed the academic skirmishes among his colleagues, and came away with something better.

John Christensen, an environmental writer with too many titles to list here, wrote that appreciation of Hundley. I asked him: If I wanted to read just one book about water in California, should I choose Hundley’s The Great Thirst? His answer: Yep.

Another writer, John Fleck, echoed the endorsement. Fleck points out that, while others have portrayed California’s water shenanigans as the schemes of “a conspiratorial power elite” (Hundley’s words), Hundley delves into the muddled mess of democracy: “a compound of interest-group pressures, local and regional considerations, political trade-offs, and the larger context of American political culture.”

Here’s Fleck:

Hundley doesn’t say it, but I read this as an “anti-Cadillac Desert” argument, an argument against Marc Reisner’s grand federalist conspiracy, the great centralized something-ocracy that Donald Worster so elegantly offered up in Rivers of Empire.

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Filed under: Water Continue reading

Prepare for a deluge as Delta begins boiling over

By Dan
JOIN THE CONVERSATION: Why should the plan to build twin tunnels to transfer water from the Sacramento River to south of the Delta be put to a popular vote? Submit a letter or comment on our Facebook page.
Jerry Brown was sounding a little like an eccentric uncle-governor the other day as he muttered about Spaceship Earth, how he got the Moonbeam moniker, and, yes, the need to recycle human waste into water.
Wearing a sweater and no tie, the governor was at ease among the 1,000 or so Association of California Water Agencies conventioneers at the Sheraton last week as he gave one of his most direct pitches yet for his Delta plan. That’s the one that includes two 40-foot-wide, 35-mile-long tunnels, which will cost $17 billion, give or take.
Citing the research and engineering that has gone into the plan, the governor, his unscripted tongue in his cheek, sort of, said: “Until you put a million hours into it, shut up.” The comment elicited laughs and huzzahs from the audience, though his critics used the opportunity to issue huffy statements expressing their dismay.
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Crystal Geyser to tap Siskiyou County groundwater

By Peter Fimrite

May 9, 2015 Updated: May 10, 2015 12:37pm


Photo: Michael Macor, The Chronicle

Shara Fish of Mount Shasta carries bottles filled with spring water from the headwaters of the Sacramento River in Mount Shasta, Calif., on Tues. April 28, 2015. Crystal Geyser is opening a bottling plant nearby without any environmental review or limits at a time when everyone else in the state is being asked to drastically cut water use. California's non-existent laws on groundwater use allow this.

A private water bottling company will soon be sucking up thousands of gallons a day from an aquifer that feeds the Sacramento River, the primary source of drinking water for millions of thirsty Californians struggling to cope with a four-year drought.

The plan by Crystal Geyser Water Co. to sink a tap this fall into Big Springs, which burbles out through lava tubes at the base of Mount Shasta, is allowed because the State Water Resources Control Board considers it groundwater, and California regulations monitoring groundwater are years from implementation.

The Calistoga purveyor of sparkling mineral water and juice is not required to do an environmental impact report or obtain a permit from the state to bottle and sell a resource that is in such short supply that California farmers are letting crops go fallow and water districts are developing plans to subject their customers to rationing.

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State building rock barrier to protect delta from salt water

By Kurtis Alexander

May 8, 2015 Updated: May 9, 2015 7:16am

The state began erecting a rock barrier Friday across a riverbed in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta in an emergency effort to prevent salt water from contaminating the freshwater supply used by 25 million Californians.

The $40 million, 40-foot-high wall is a temporary measure the state is employing to protect the purity of delta water at a critical point in California’s extensive delivery system. Because of the drought, the delta has not filled with river runoff from the mountains like it normally does this time of year. Freshwater runoff carried by the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers keeps salt water from San Francisco and San Pablo bays from dominating the delta.

“We’re just trying to maintain the good water quality,” said Paul Marshall with the state Department of Water Resources, which rushed out the makeshift rock barrier to the roar of cranes and barges on the West False River in eastern Contra Costa County on Friday. “This is one of the last tools we have available to manage salinity.”

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Recycled Drinking Water: Getting Past the Yuck Factor




Filtering membranes in an Orange County, Calif., water purification facility. The plant opened in 2008 during the state's last drought.


Stuart Palley for The New York Times


FOUNTAIN VALLEY, Calif. — Water spilled out of a spigot, sparklingly clear, into a plastic cup. Just 45 minutes earlier, it was effluent, piped over from Orange County’s wastewater treatment plant next door. At a specialized plant, it then went through several stages of purification that left it cleaner than anything that flows out of a home faucet or comes in a brand-name bottle.

“It’s stripped down to the H, 2 and O,” said Mike Markus, the general manager of the county water district. He was not exaggerating. Without the minerals that give most cities’ supply a distinctive flavor, this water tastes of nothing.

As California scrambles for ways to cope with its crippling drought and the mandatory water restrictions imposed last month by Gov. Jerry Brown, an array of ideas that were long dismissed as too controversial, expensive or unpleasant are getting a second look. One is to conserve more water; another is to turn nearby and abundant sources of water, like the Pacific Ocean, into drinking water through desalination.

Yet another is to recycle the water Californians have already used. And therein lies a marketing challenge that can be even greater than the technological one.

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Honduras to Overtake Mexico as Latin America’s Second-Largest Solar Market in 2015


Here’s a highlight from GTM Research’s most recent Latin America PV Playbook.

Mike Munsell
May 8, 2015

In the latest edition of the Latin America PV Playbook, GTM Research forecasts Honduras to install 460 megawatts of PV this year. This puts Honduras second in the rankings, behind perennial market leader Chile, which is expected to install 1 gigawatt in 2015. Mexico, Latin's America's No. 2 installer in 2014, will be bumped into third place.

FIGURE: Leading Latin America Solar Countries, 2014-2015E

Source: GTM Research Latin America PV Playbook

With 349 megawatts of utility-scale PV projects under construction despite concerns about country risk, Honduras has emerged as Latin America's 2015 surprise story. There is incentive to quickly finish projects in the Central American nation, as the first 300 megawatts of projects to connect by July qualify for a bonus tariff of $155 per megawatt-hour.

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JUICE: Poster Boy & Girl Ratemaking

May 07, 2015

William J. Kelly

Every cause has its poster child and every poster girl or boy has a story. That’s also the case when it comes to the equity of California residential electric rates charged by investor-owned utilities.

To reform those rates, lawmakers and the California Public Utilities Commission adopted a new poster boy a couple years ago.

He’s hard-working and lives in an energy inefficient manufactured house in one of the state’s hot inland valleys. To keep his big family comfortable, he runs old window air conditioners non-stop from May through October and pays high bills.

His plight stems from a rate freeze lawmakers enacted to protect the poor and energy conservers early in the last decade when Enron and others were bilking Californians during the 2000-01 energy crisis. That followed the state’s disastrous energy deregulation law enacted in the 1990s. Ever since, this poster boy’s been saddled with the increasing costs of running the central power grid attributable to new transmission lines, a state-mandated switch to centralized renewable energy generation from cheap coal, new digital meters, and myriad other costs, including rising compensation for executives and utility workers alike. Now he faces his own financial disaster due to poor public policy.

But don’t blame the commission. After all, with rates frozen by the Legislature on small users and the poor, where else could the commission get the money needed for all those utility projects and the regular salary raises for utility executives and workers it’s approved in the intervening years. (This story leaves aside the wisdom of all those investments.)

Next, enter the poster girl. She’s the cause célèbre of the solar and energy efficiency industries.

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