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Californians Participating In Solar Generation and Reducing Climate Change Pollution, By Evan Gillespie, Sierra Club

May 31, 2013 in Climate Change, Environment, EV News, Greentech, Solar

Earlier this month, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere passed 400 parts per million (ppm), far exceeding what the scientific community deems permissible to minimize the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions on the planet’s climate.

The month of May brought good news too: we welcomed California’s 150,000th rooftop solar installation. Demand-side management, including conservation, energy efficiency, and rooftop solar are increasingly cost-effective and accessible to Californians. Roughly two-thirds of all rooftop solar installations in 2011 were put in place in middle-income zip codes, and growing numbers of Californians from all walks of life are looking for ways to manage their energy use as a way to control costs and protect the environment.

Promoting individual participation and enabling customer choice is critical to reducing climate change emissions. When given the option, Californians vastly prefer clean energy to dirty and are pushing to go above and beyond the state’s current minimum clean energy mandates by installing rooftop solar, while slashing energy use inside their homes. The more that public policy can do to enable Californians take their energy use into their own hands, the faster we will eliminate fossil fuels.

One key tool for allowing greater participation in clean energy is utility rate design. The economic signals built into how an electric bill is calculated go a long way towards encouraging or dissuading millions of Californians from going solar or cutting their energy use.

Earlier this week, Sierra Club and a number of other stakeholders, including environmental groups, consumer organizations, and the utilities themselves, submitted proposals recommending how these incentives in the rate structure should be laid out. A comment period now begins, and ultimately the California Public Utilities Commission will weigh the merits and propose a new rate structure that will influence the future of energy in California.

Sierra Club’s proposal puts forward two principles to guide rate design:

1. New rate structures should enhance economic incentives for customers to reduce energy consumption and install solar; and

2. It should also allocate costs to customers based on their impact on the grid, rather than assuming all that users have equal impact on peak generation capacity requirements and the costs of transmitting electricity long distances, since some customers use solar and energy efficiency on-site to ease their demand for electricity from their home or business.

Another big-picture improvement should be increasing the use of “time of use” pricing for electricity, which means pricing electricity according to the time of the day. At times when demand is low, like late at night or during the winter, prices will be lower, and at times when demand is high, like hot summer days when air conditioners are running full blast and fossil fuel plants have to come online to meet demand, prices are relatively higher.

Increasing “time of use” pricing will provide an economic incentive for developers of “smart” controls and energy efficient appliances, encourage the further use of solar panels meet demand on hot days, and generally create a more flexible and efficient energy grid that will offer lower prices and be more resilient to spikes in demand. Our proposal argues that “time of use” pricing can be combined with the current tiered system of charging high-demand customers more than those who use very little, resulting in a new rate structure that is both fair and flexible.

EcoShift Consulting, LLC, who assisted Sierra Club in developing its proposal, estimates that, as customers adjust to time of use pricing, we will see a 25 percent reduction in peak energy consumption and a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions of 288,000 metric tons per year. That’s good for our economy and good for the planet.

When it comes to a customer’s energy use, it’s quite often the case that the smartest move for their wallet is also the best move for the environment, and the expanding use of rooftop solar and energy efficiency opportunities are the perfect example. As California determines its new rate structure, it’s critical that we provide the right incentives for solar and energy efficiency so that more and more Californians keep our economy moving towards clean energy.

This article is a repost, credit: Evan Gillespie, Campaign Director for Sierra Club’s My Generation Campaign,

Electric Cars Pros and Cons Tesla

May 31, 2013 in Electric Vehicles, EV News, Supercharger, Tesla

Tesla Motors is in the process of transforming the way the world thinks about cars and energy. 

The Tesla Model S is a high-precision electric car, and the Supercharger network is a free fast-charging network for the Model S and future Tesla vehicles.  The Superchargers will eventually be powered by solar panels with a battery storage system.  The battery storage will be fed by the solar panels.  In addition, Tesla may offer EV battery swapping as an option in some form in the future.

Tesla Model S at Supercharger Photo courtesy of Tesla

Tesla Model S at Supercharger
Photo courtesy of Tesla


  • World leaders are examining ways to address climate change and oil depletion.
  • Tesla Motors offers a vision of sustainable passenger car transportation.  Management has clearly articulated short and long-term goals.
  • Tesla CEO Elon Musk has an exceptional track record in business, and he has met early goals set at Tesla.
  • Mr. Musk has won the respect of many on Wall Street, and he has won many hearts and minds on Main Street.  Electric vehicle (EV) enthusiasts are carrying a message of an electric car revolution, all around the world!
  • The company is well capitalized.

There are three big pros for the Model S and one big con.

Tesla has been hard at work on reducing the barriers to electric car adoption.  The company has one major obstacle to clear.  Tesla CEO Elon Musk says it will take the company a few years more to solve.  The solution is called, the generation III.

Pro #1: You do not ever have to go to a gasoline station again! 

The Tesla Model S 85 kWh car is an all-electric car with a battery range of 265 miles.  Most Model S owners charge within the comfort of home.  For longer trips, you can charge the Model S at Supercharger stations for free, forever!  You will eventually be able to drive across the United States using the power of sunshine.  A Supercharger will provide 200 miles of range from a 30 minute charge.

Tesla's planned Superchargers for 2015 Image courtesy of Tesla

Tesla’s planned Superchargers for 2015
Image courtesy of Tesla

Pro #2: You do not have to be bothered or concerned about ongoing maintenance issues.

The Model S is an electric car, so there is no need for oil changes, filters, or smog checks.  There are no ongoing maintenance issues.  In fact, Tesla has made the annual check-up optional.  The battery comes with an 8 year no fault warranty, so you do not have to worry about the battery.

Pro #3: You might be able to upgrade your battery range in the future.

To be clear, Tesla has not stated that the company would do this.  However, Tesla CEO Elon Musk expressed that he liked the idea on a conference call in April.  Certainly, battery swapping technology would be one way to address this.  The company did state in its latest 10Q that it plans to deploy battery swapping in some form.  Mr. Musk expressed on yesterday’s conference call that he likes optionality in responding to a journalist’s question about battery swapping.

The Con

The Model S is an expensive high-precision car.  The company has partially addressed this issue by offering financing, which has significantly increased demand.

The generation III car, a more economical mass market car, is still a few years away, according to Mr. Musk.  The generation III in conjunction with the Supercharger network holds tremendous promise for the world.  A mass market generation III EV could unleash the electric car revolution.

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Maine Project Launches First Grid-Connected Offshore Wind Turbine in the U.S., Source: DOE

May 31, 2013 in Environment, EV News, Greentech, Wind

WASHINGTON – The Energy Department today recognized the nation’s first grid-connected offshore floating wind turbine prototype off the coast of Castine, Maine. Led by the University of Maine, this project represents the first concrete-composite floating platform wind turbine to be deployed in the world – strengthening American leadership in innovative clean energy technologies that diversify the nation’s energy mix with more clean, domestic energy sources.

“Developing America’s vast renewable energy resources is an important part of the Energy Department’s all-of-the-above strategy to pave the way to a cleaner and more diverse domestic energy portfolio,” said Jose Zayas, director of the Energy Department’s Wind and Water Power Technologies Office. “The Castine offshore wind project represents a critical investment to ensure America leads in this fast-growing global industry, helping to bring tremendous untapped energy resources to market and create new jobs across the country.”

Offshore wind represents a large, untapped energy resource for the United States, offering over 4,000 gigawatts of clean, domestic energy potential – four times the nation’s current total generation capacity. According to a recent report commissioned by the Energy Department, a U.S. offshore wind industry that takes advantage of this abundant domestic resource could support up to 200,000 manufacturing, construction, operation and supply chain jobs across the country and drive over $70 billion in annual investments by 2030. In Maine, as with many other areas off U.S. coasts, the bulk of this clean, renewable energy resource lies in deeper waters where conventional turbine technology is not practical. Innovative floating offshore wind turbines, like the one launched today, will open up new economic and energy opportunities for the country.

With the support of a $12 million Energy Department investment over five years, University of Maine and its project partners conducted extensive design, engineering and testing of floating offshore wind turbines, followed by the construction and deployment of its 65-foot-tall VolturnUS prototype. At 1:8th the scale of a commercial installation, this project will collect data to validate and improve floating wind turbine designs, while helping to address technical barriers to greater offshore wind cost reductions.

The University of Maine design uses advanced materials that help reduce the overall cost of the system while ensuring high performance and efficiency. For example, the floating wind turbine features a unique semi-submersible platform that uses a lower cost concrete foundation in addition to a lighter weight composite tower. As part of the five-year project, the Maine Maritime Academy helped test and conduct analysis on these pioneering designs, while Pittsfield, Maine-based Cianbro Corporation leveraged its experience in maritime energy infrastructure and ship building to construct this first-of-its-kind wind energy system.

As part of a separate project, the University of Maine is planning a larger offshore wind demonstration called Aqua Ventus I – one of seven offshore wind design and engineering projects announced last year by the Energy Department. Upon completion of the engineering and design phase, the Department intends to select up to three projects for additional funding in 2014 to support construction and installation.

Find more information on the Energy Department’s broader efforts to grow America’s wind energy industry at

This article is a repost, credit: US Department of Energy,

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Hurricane effects on oil and natural gas production depend on storm trajectory, strength, Source: EIA

May 31, 2013 in EIA, EV News, Oil

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, based on National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Climate Prediction Center, Atlantic Hurricane Outlook. Note: NOAA classifies named storms as hurricanes when their maximum sustained surface wind exceeds 74 miles per hour, and major hurricanes when their maximum sustained surface wind exceeds 110 miles per hour.

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, based on National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Climate Prediction Center, Atlantic Hurricane Outlook.
Note: NOAA classifies named storms as hurricanes when their maximum sustained surface wind exceeds 74 miles per hour, and major hurricanes when their maximum sustained surface wind exceeds 110 miles per hour.

Hurricane season starts tomorrow, and government weathercasters say there is a 70% chance of 13-20 named storms in the Atlantic Basin, of which 7-11 may strengthen to hurricanes and with 3-6 of those becoming major hurricanes characterized by wind categories 3, 4, and 5.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center released its forecast of summer storms last week. NOAA’s forecast focuses on the number of storms but not their location or trajectory. For oil and natural gas production, the severity of any disruption largely depends on both the strength and location of the storms.

Storm disruptions to oil and natural gas production in the U.S. portion of the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) and along the Gulf Coast have declined in recent years because of regional shifts in where production takes place; there are now greater levels of production taking place at inland basins, which are generally less affected by storms.

For example, in 1997, 26% of the nation’s natural gas was produced in the federal Gulf of Mexico; in 2012, that number was 6%. The GOM share of crude oil production also has declined, from 26% in 2007-11 to 19% last year.

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration natural gas and crude oil production data. Note: Graph excludes state offshore volumes.

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration natural gas and crude oil production data.
Note: Graph excludes state offshore volumes.

The likelihood of storms making landfall somewhere in the United States
increases sharply during hyperactive seasons, when the Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) index
exceeds 165% of its 1981-2010 median value. For 2013, there is a 70% chance that
the ACE range will be 120%-205% of this median, according to NOAA.

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration calculations based on data from the U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE).

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration calculations based on data from the U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE).

Making landfall, or not, is crucial to the effect on hydrocarbon production. For example:

  • 2008: Two significant hurricanes affected oil and natural gas production in 2008: Hurricane Gustav, which made landfall in Cocodrie, Louisiana, on September 1, and Hurricane Ike, which made landfall in Galveston, Texas, on September 13. Both of these hurricanes caused considerable damage and led to an average 1.1 million barrels per day (bbl/d) of shut-in crude oil production and 5.5 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) of shut-in natural gas production in September, according to EIA calculations.
  • 2009-11: Storms during 2009-11 did not result in significant oil and natural production shut-ins. No hurricanes made landfall in the United States in 2009 or 2010.
  • 2012: Hurricane Isaac, a Category 1 hurricane, made landfall on August 28, and on that day shut-in production totaled 1.3 million bbl/d of crude oil and 3 Bcf/d of natural gas. On top of this shut-in production, 0.9 million bbl/d of petroleum refinery capacity and 1.5 million bbl/d of petroleum pipeline capacity were temporarily shut down, in addition to more than 10 Bcf/d of shut-in natural gas processing plant capacity, according to data collected from the Form EIA-757B survey. During the following week, the shut-in capacity at these processing plants rapidly came back on line.

EIA plans to issue a supplement on the 2013 hurricane season in conjunction with the June edition of the Short-Term Energy Outlook.

This article is a repost, credit: US Energy Information Administration, Today In Energy,

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Radiation Measured by NASA’s Curiosity on Voyage to Mars has Implications for Future Human Missions, Source: NASA

May 30, 2013 in Environment, EV News

NASA's Curiosity Photo courtesy of Curiosity/NASA

NASA’s Curiosity
Photo courtesy of Curiosity/NASA

WASHINGTON — Measurements taken by NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission as it delivered the Curiosity rover to Mars in 2012 are providing NASA the information it needs to design systems to protect human explorers from radiation exposure on deep-space expeditions in the future.

MSL’s Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD) is the first instrument to measure the radiation environment during a Mars cruise mission from inside a spacecraft that is similar to potential human exploration spacecraft. The findings will reduce uncertainty about the effectiveness of radiation shielding and provide vital information to space mission designers who will need to build in protection for spacecraft occupants in the future.

“As this nation strives to reach an asteroid and Mars in our lifetimes, we’re working to solve every puzzle nature poses to keep astronauts safe so they can explore the unknown and return home,” said William Gerstenmaier, NASA’s associate administrator for human exploration and operations in Washington. “We learn more about the human body’s ability to adapt to space every day aboard the International Space Station. As we build the Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System rocket to carry and shelter us in deep space, we’ll continue to make the advances we need in life sciences to reduce risks for our explorers. Curiosity’s RAD instrument is giving us critical data we need so that we humans, like the rover, can dare mighty things to reach the Red Planet.”

The findings, which are published in the May 31 edition of the journal Science, indicate radiation exposure for human explorers could exceed NASA’s career limit for astronauts if current propulsion systems are used.

Two forms of radiation pose potential health risks to astronauts in deep space. One is galactic cosmic rays (GCRs), particles caused by supernova explosions and other high-energy events outside the solar system. The other is solar energetic particles (SEPs) associated with solar flares and coronal mass ejections from the sun.

Radiation exposure is measured in units of Sievert (Sv) or milliSievert (one one-thousandth Sv). Long-term population studies have shown exposure to radiation increases a person’s lifetime cancer risk. Exposure to a dose of 1 Sv, accumulated over time, is associated with a 5 percent increase in risk for developing fatal cancer.

NASA has established a 3 percent increased risk of fatal cancer as an acceptable career limit for its astronauts currently operating in low-Earth orbit. The RAD data showed the Curiosity rover was exposed to an average of 1.8 milliSieverts of GCR per day on its journey to Mars. Only about 5 percent of the radiation dose was associated with solar particles because of a relatively quiet solar cycle and the shielding provided by the spacecraft.

The RAD data will help inform current discussions in the United States medical community, which is working to establish exposure limits for deep-space explorers in the future.

“In terms of accumulated dose, it’s like getting a whole-body CT scan once every five or six days,” said Cary Zeitlin, a principal scientist at the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in San Antonio and lead author of the paper on the findings. “Understanding the radiation environment inside a spacecraft carrying humans to Mars or other deep space destinations is critical for planning future crewed missions.”

Current spacecraft shield much more effectively against SEPs than GCRs. To protect against the comparatively low energy of typical SEPs, astronauts might need to move into havens with extra shielding on a spacecraft or on the Martian surface, or employ other countermeasures. GCRs tend to be highly energetic, highly penetrating particles that are not stopped by the modest shielding provided by a typical spacecraft.

“Scientists need to validate theories and models with actual measurements, which RAD is now providing,” said Donald M. Hassler, a program director at SwRI and principal investigator of the RAD investigation. “These measurements will be used to better understand how radiation travels through deep space and how it is affected and changed by the spacecraft structure itself. The spacecraft protects somewhat against lower energy particles, but others can propagate through the structure unchanged or break down into secondary particles.”

After Curiosity landed on Mars in August, the RAD instrument continued operating, measuring the radiation environment on the planet’s surface. RAD data collected during Curiosity’s science mission will continue to inform plans to protect astronauts as NASA designs future missions to Mars in the coming decades.

SwRI, together with Christian Albrechts University in Kiel, Germany, built RAD with funding from NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate and Germany’s national aerospace research center, Deutsches Zentrum fur Luft- und Raumfahrt.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif., manages the Mars Science Laboratory Project. The NASA Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington manages the Mars Exploration Program.

For more information about the findings and the Mars Science Laboratory mission, visit:

For more information about NASA human spaceflight and exploration, visit:

This article is a repost, credit: NASA,