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

State-level Renewable Energy Regulations

by Emily Audet

States have often passed environmental regulations that extend past and are more stringent than federal regulations. With the current administration and Congress appearing to not prioritize sustainability nor clean energy regulations and legislation, pushes at state-level policy could be a viable political strategy for those concerned with advancing clean energy. As of January 2017, 29 states and Washington, D.C. have passed a renewable portfolio standard (RPS), a type of regulation that bolsters use and production of renewable energy [http://midwestenergynews.com/2017/01/09/report-benefits-of-state-renewable-energy-policies-far-outweigh-costs/]. State-level RPSs significantly impact the nation’s energy landscape—RPSs caused the creation of the majority of all renewable energy projects established from 2000 to 2017, and if states fully implement existing RPSs, a projected 40% of the energy for the whole country will come from renewable sources by 2050. Continue reading

California Implements Large-Scale Low-Income Community Solar Initiative

by Deedee Chao

In October 2015, California Governor Jerry Brown signed in the country’s largest solar bill designed for low-income renters, creating the Multifamily Affordable Housing Solar Roofs Program under AB693. This new program is the successor to the Multifamily Affordable Solar Housing (MASH) Program established in 2008 as part of the California Solar Initiative, and aims at expanding the program to have a larger impact on low-income households.

The California Public Utilities Commission cites great demand and success in green developers collaborating in low-income housing projects to install rooftop solar as a reason for updating the program, and aims to increase renewables by setting a goal of at least 300 megawatts of rooftop solar POV on each multifamily affordable housing project. Continue reading

Solar Jobs Explode In California

by Max Breitbarth

The Golden State is leading the United States’ push for more solar energy. Sammy Roth’s Desert Sun article summarizes a recent report from the nonprofit Solar Foundation, which notes that solar jobs are on the rise, and they are increasing the fastest in California.

According to the report, California’s solar jobs have increased almost 40 percent since last year. Their current number now exceeds 75,000 workers, more than enough to lead the country. Roth notes that California actually has more solar workers than the next ten states combined. Continue reading

The Future in Community Solar

by Deedee Chao

Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) is the first of California’s major utilities to enhance community solar programs; customers who are unable to install their own solar panels will still be able to draw their electricity directly from solar sources. Named Solar Choice, customers can choose to pay a premium of approximately 3 cents per kilowatt-hour to have half or all of their electricity come from solar. This new program opens up a new market and was created in response to high demand: over half of PG&E’s customers responded to a survey, saying they wanted to go solar, but could not implement it themselves. Solar Choice is a streamlined process for customers to go from traditional power to renewables, without having to do any installations or solar contracts themselves. This allows for easy buy-in, participation, and support for renewables, all at the cost of a few cents per kilowatt-hour. This premium is extracted primarily to ensure that non-solar customers don’t pay extra for their electricity; this suggests that the more participation there is, the lower the premium will be, making solar more affordable as demand increases. Never before in California has the process of switching to solar been so painless. Continue reading

What California’s NEM 2.0 Decision Means

by Deedee Chao

On January 28, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) voted to pass NEM 2.0, a net energy metering decision for solar that updated how rates would be monitored for solar customers (those who own solar energy systems to generate energy for their own use). Net energy metering (NEM) is a method through which solar system owners are credited for their surplus energy that they feed to the grid, which subtracts from the costs incurred when they use energy from other sources (for example, on cloudy days or at nighttime), so they are only billed for their “net” energy consumption. Continue reading

One of the Nation’s Biggest Solar Farm Open in California

by Shannon O’Neill

The Desert Sunlight Solar Farm located in Riverside County, opened in February 2015 as one of the biggest solar farms in the world. First Solar, who also contributed more than 8 million solar modules to the project, runs the project. The farm has 4,000 acres of solar panels, providing the capability to produce 550 megawatts of energy. This is enough to provide energy to more than 160,000 homes. Additionally, this energy source will replace the use of 300,000 tons of carbon dioxide each year, a number equivalent to removing 60,000 cars off of the roads. In addition to the environmental benefits, the project has also created many jobs. This project is aiming to contribute to governor Jerry Brown’s initiative of one-third of California’s energy coming from renewable resources by 2020, and one-half from renewable sources by 2030.

This project opens during a time where the future of solar energy is uncertain due to the fact that federal funding and investors’ interests have decreased in recent years. Specifically, the federal investment tax credit is expected to decrease from 30% to 10% by the end 2016. Additionally, with many states already on track to meet renewable energy goals, investing in solar energy has not been a priority. However, as solar energy is slowly becoming price-competitive due to the decrease in prices of photovoltaic panels along with the opening of this solar farm, there is hope of re-initiating such interests in solar energy.

Pacific Gas and Electric Company and Southern California Edison have already agreed to purchase energy from the Desert Sunlight Solar Farm for the next twenty years. Additionally the Obama Administration is making renewable energy a priority. They have designated 22 million acres in California for the sole use of renewable development in order to generate 20,000 megawatts of power by 2020. This is enough energy to power around 6 million homes.

 

Huge Solar Farm Opens in California: Enough Energy from 160,000 Homes (http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-solar-farm-20150209-story.html)

 

Desert Sunlight Solar Farm (http://www.firstsolar.com/en/about-us/projects/desert-sunlight-solar-farm)

 

550 MW Desert Sunlight Solar Farm in California Now Online (http://cleantechnica.com/2015/02/10/550-mw-desert-sunlight-solar-farm-california-now-online/)

 

 

California’s Investment in Clean-Tech is Paying Off

by Melanie Paty

A recent article on Renewable Energy World by Bloomberg’s Mark Chediak and Miachel B. Marois proves that Governor Jerry Brown’s goal to “show that decarbonizing is consistent with economic abundance financial stability” is becoming a reality. Since Brown came to office in 1975, he has been pushing for policies that support green technology and today, California has the most ambitious renewable energy goals in the nation. Within the next 15 years, Brown has proposed increasing electricity supply by renewables from 30% to 50%, reducing petroleum use in cars and trucks by 50%, increasing energy efficiency of existing buildings by 200%, and putting 1.5 million zero emission cars on the roads. While most governments are hopping on the sustainability bandwagon in recent years, California’s early investment seems to be paying off. Continue reading

Cost-Effectiveness of Southern California Public Transportation Projects

by Dan McCabe

California recently established a carbon cap-and-trade program in the interest of improving air quality and fighting global climate change. The tax revenues generated from this program are used to fund projects that help reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, but policymakers face the challenge of deciding which projects are best suited for this funding. To inform this decision-making process, Matute and Chester (2015) compared the effectiveness of different current and future public transportation projects to determine which is the most cost-effective, in terms of public dollars spent per ton of carbon dioxide equivalent released. The study compared four projects from Los Angeles County: the Orange Bus Rapid Transport (Orange BRT) line in the San Fernando Valley, the Gold Light Rail Transport (Gold LRT) line that runs from Los Angeles to Pasadena, a bicycle and pedestrian pathway along the Orange BRT line, and the California High Speed Rail (CAHSR) project, a plan being developed to expand high-speed rail throughout the state. All four projects were found to have negative costs per ton of carbon dioxide reduced, indicating that they actually save the public money over time. For a 100-year period, the bicycle pathway was found to be most cost-effective, followed by the Gold LRT, Orange BRT, and CAHSR. Continue reading

The Risky Business Project

by Chloe Rodman

Writing in the New York Times, Burt Helm (2015) discusses the roles of Tom Steyer, Henry Paulson Jr., and Michael Bloomberg in leading the new Risky Business Project. The Risky Business Project originated as a study called Risky Business: The Economic Risks of Climate Change in the United States, which was created to determine how American business will be affected by climate change and to determine the cost of carbon emission mitigation now, as opposed to the cost of waiting. While Risky Business comprises a wide variety of members who don’t agree on much—democrats and republicans, billionaires, senators, and mayors—they do have one common goal: to show both Congress and corporations across America the impact climate change will have on the economy, a cost estimated at hundreds of billions of dollars. Continue reading