Putting Tesla to the Test

by Ethan Fukuto

The Aliso Canyon gas leak of 2015 in Los Angeles’s San Fernando Valley caused not only an environmental crisis—fuel shortages affected the region’s supply and source of energy. The crisis was a turning point for Southern California’s energy industry, the start of an experiment in the use of batteries to meet energy demands. Tesla’s contribution to the effort, 396 batteries at Mira Loma in the city of Ontario, went online on the 30th of January and is capable of providing power to around 15,000 homes for four hours. The batteries themselves are built at Tesla’s Gigafactory in Nevada, and the company’s process of vertical integration now means each component of the battery is built in-house. They are designed to store energy during the day and release at night during times of highest demand in the evening. California’s increasing demand and funding for renewable energy projects allowed the Mira Loma project to come together in just a few months’ time, with the threat of climate change and the impending closure of the last of California’s nuclear plants pushing the industry towards alternative sources of renewable energy. Continue reading

The Looming Threat of Climate Change on Peatlands

by Ethan Fukuto

In January 2017, Simon Lewis of the University of Leeds published new findings mapping 55,000 square miles of peatlands in the Cuvette Centrale depression in the Congo Basin of Central Africa. Lewis et al.’s findings chart the Cuvette Centrale as the largest peatlands in the tropics, containing around 30 percent of the worldwide total of carbon soil in tropical peatlands. Carbon-rich peat, perhaps best known as an ingredient in whisky production, is a soil formed by decomposing organic matter. Peatlands are found primarily in northern regions such as Canada and Europe, though tropical peatlands, such as the Cuvette Centrale, pose a greater risk to global climate issues. As these regions dry due to climate change and human land-use, their susceptibility to fires increases the risk of a massive output of carbon into the atmosphere. A 2006 study on soil carbon and climate change by Eric Davidson and Ivan Janssens called for a broadening of scope in the study of temperature sensitivity to include areas such as peatlands. Continue reading