Category: "Climate Change"

08/20/20

  01:44:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 761 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Climate Change, Residential Solar, Energy Storage

Behind the Meter to the Rescue!

It’s hot here in California, fry an egg on the sidewalk style hot, and the grid is feeling the heat.  The California Independent System Operator (CAISO) - the entity responsible for managing the grid - has issued warnings about possible outages, and even our local utility, Pasadena Water & Power, sent out emails to customers warning that cutoffs might be necessary.  The extreme conditions have prompted some extreme reactions, blaming the State’s shift to more and more renewables as the cause of the problem.  But overlooked in all of this is the contribution of local solar power systems, “behind the meter,” that have greatly improved the present situation, and with more aggressive utilization of storage, could do even more.  Here’s our take…

Blame Game

Let’s start by looking at what is causing the present problem. As we all know too well, we are in the middle of a pandemic and conditions in California have been depressingly awful, with a 7-day moving average of new cases at nearly 9,000.  As a result, a lot more people than usual are working from home, driving up electricity loads as we struggle to remain sane, and if possible, cool.  That’s been tough, as the entire state is in the grip of a week-long heat wave, with temperatures soaring above 100 degrees, and in some places, above 110!  All of that has created record demands for electricity and the grid has struggled to meet that need, with spot prices hitting all-time highs.

For those opposed to California’s efforts to “green the grid,” this provides an opportunity to go on offense. Cue Republican Assemblymember, and Vice-Chair of the Committee on Utilities and Energy, Jim Patterson:

You can’t run a 21st century economy that’s the fifth largest on the planet with wind and solar. I have been warning over and over again that the policies coming out of the democrat-controlled legislature and Governors’ office are creating the conditions for blackouts and brownouts and here we are seeing the evidence.

Wow, just how wrong can you be?  Let’s be clear: no 21st-century economy is going to survive the century if we don’t figure out how to do so with solar, wind and other, non-fossil fuel based sources of electricity.  And despite the predictable piling on from climate change deniers, there are multiple paths ahead for getting to an all-green electric grid.

Behind the Meter to the Rescue!

All of the stories about the blackouts, however, ignore the contribution - both present and future - of behind the meter resources, that is, local, rooftop solar.  Our friends over at CALSSA sent out the following graph that helps to make those contributions concrete:

Behind the meter solar and storage contributions to the grid

There’s a lot going on here so let’s break it down.  The brown curve is the actual reported demand data from CAISO on August 14th.  But without the contributions from the million plus behind-the-meter solar installations the actual load would have been significantly greater, as shown by the yellow line.  That is capacity the ratepayers of California did not have to purchase, but still benefited from its production.  Moreover, as the yellow line shows, the peak demand is actually at 3 p.m., but thanks to behind-the-meter installations, the peak on the grid is both lower, and later, a fact not often explained to the public.

The vertical lines mark the period last Friday that was subject to rolling blackouts - from roughly 7 to 10 p.m.  As the merger of the yellow and brown lines around that time indicate, solar production is no longer a factor.  But there is still a role to play as storage begins to be deployed with ever greater frequency.  CALSSA’s policy director, Brad Heavner (who created this illustration), notes:

If California builds 3 GW of additional energy storage systems at customer locations that can be dispatched during grid shortages, it would further trim evening peak needs. This is shown in the figure as the dotted blue line. CALSSA estimates the state can achieve this level of build-out within the next five years with state policies.

This is certainly doable, but it will take ongoing financial support, and preferably a more transparent rebate program than the present, byzantine SGIP program.

Ironically, the utilities are pushing their customers into purchasing more storage, as the public’s patience with grid outages - whether from rolling blackouts, or utility initiated public safety power shutoffs - is at an all-time low. As sophisticated products like the Enphase Energy Ensemble Storage system become available, more and more solar consumers will become storage consumers as well.  Once again, the ratepaying public will benefit from those investments, and hopefully all of us will be able to keep our cool!

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08/08/20

  04:35:00 am, by Sophia   , 374 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Climate Change

LA Community College District Joins 100% Committed Campaign

[EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first of what will be many blog posts from Run on Sun’s newest member, Sophia Mazurek.  We will have lots more to say about Sophia in the days to come, but I think you will find her observations well worth your time!]


Solar Carports

In early July, the Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD) signed the Clean Energy and Sustainability Resolution to ensure all community colleges in LACCD will commit to transferring over to clean energy by 2030. This is a huge step for the city of LA, as the LACCD is the largest community college district in the country. This process is fueled by The Climate Reality Project’s 100% Committed™  campaign, which is pushing for large corporations and industries to power their facilities using ONLY clean energy. 

Not only does this campaign promote 100% renewable energy, but it brings together communities all over the country to ensure that every government and business is proactive and aware of the climate crisis we are currently facing. 

In response, Environment California research and policy center director Dan Jacobson released the following statement:

By taking this step toward 100% clean and renewable energy, LACCD is driving progress and showing us all that what just a few years ago was considered a pipe dream is possible. We know that we need to transition our whole economy to renewable energy to ensure a cleaner, healthier future. Leadership from colleges and universities can help pave the way. Congratulations and thank you to LACCD!

The Climate Reality Project encourages YOU to take action in your city or local government by creating your own 100% committed campaign, which you can download directly from the 100% Committed site.. This will provide the outline and necessary step-by-step procedures to help businesses, schools, and governments in your area transition to 100% renewable energy. As former vice president Al Gore said, “Solving the climate crisis is within our grasp, but we need people like YOU to stand up and ACT." 

Your voice can be heard! Take the dedicated citizens and students of LA as an example: they continued to call, email, and facilitate meetings with the LACC district board members to spark the change they wanted to see. Thanks to them, our community is now moving towards a more bright and sustainable future. 

11/30/18

  07:50:00 pm, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 947 words  
Categories: Climate Change

Climate Assessment Report: Dire Threat Largely Ignored

On Black Friday, the Trump Administration released the 4th National Climate Assessment report, presumably in the hope that most Americans would still be too stupefied  from their food coma and shopping binges to notice.  So here we are a week later, and hopefully woke.  Because the message of the report is a dire warning of what is already happening and what is to come. We ignore it at our peril.

From ClimateNexus:

This U.S. federal government report shows that:

  • Human activity, like burning fossil fuels, is the primary cause for the warming temperatures we are undoubtedly experiencing.
  • By the end of this century, fighting climate change will save hundreds of billions of dollars just in public health costs, and save thousands of lives a year.
  • Americans are already paying for climate change as it makes storms more damaging, heat waves more deadly, wildfires more common, allergies worse and some diseases more widespread.
  • The U.S. military, as well as many farmers, businesses, and local communities are already planning for and adapting to climate change.
  • Climate change is a clear and present danger to the health and wealth of the American people.

Topline findings of the report include:

Human activity, primarily burning fossil fuels, is causing climate change. There is no credible alternative to global warming emissions to explain the warming.

  • Global average temperatures have risen 1.8°F (1.0°C) since 1901, predominantly because of human activity, especially the emission of heat-trapping gases.
  • Globally, 16 of the last 17 years are the warmest years on record.
  • Depending on the region, Americans could experience an additional month to two month’s worth of days with maximum temperatures above 100°F (38°C) by 2050, with that severe heat becoming commonplace in the southeast by 2100.

Economic losses from climate change are significant for some sectors of the U.S. economy.

  • In some sectors, losses driven by the impacts of climate change could exceed $100 billion annually by the end of the century.
  • If emissions continue unabated, extreme temperatures could end up costing billions upon billions in lost wages annually by the end of the century, and negatively impact the health of construction, agricultural and other outdoor workers.
  • Many aspects of climate change – including extreme heat, droughts, and floods – will pose risks to the U.S. agricultural sector. In many places, crop yields, as well as crop and grazing land quality, are expected to decline as a result.
  • We may be underestimating our level of risk by failing to account for multiple impacts occurring at once, or not planning for impacts that will span across government borders and sector boundaries.
  • Our aging infrastructure, especially our electric grid, will continue to be stressed by extreme weather events, which is why helping communities on the frontlines of climate impacts to adapt is so crucial.

Americans are already responding to the climate change impacts of burning fossil fuels.

  • Increased global warming emissions have contributed to the observed increases in Atlantic hurricane activity since 1970.
  • Climate change doubled the area burned by wildfires across the West between 1984 and 2015, relative to what would have burned without warming. Climate change was a greater factor in area burned between 1916 and 2003 than was fire suppression, fire management or non-climate factors.
  • By 2100, annual acreage burned by wildfires could increase by as much as 6 times in some places. The U.S. spends an average of about $1 billion annually to fight wildfires, but spent over $2 billion in 2015 due to extreme drought. Costs exceeded $2 billion in the first 8 months of 2017.
  • The U.S. military is already working to understand the increased risks of security issues resulting from climate change-induced resource shocks (droughts causing crop failure, for example, which can contribute to civil unrest) as well as extreme weather events and direct impacts on military infrastructure, like sea level rise or extreme heat at military bases.

Storm surge and tidal flooding frequency, depth and extent are worsened by sea level rise, presenting a significant risk to America’s trillion-dollar coastal property market.

  • Global sea level has risen about 8-9 inches since 1880, 3 inches of which have come since just 1993. We can expect at least several inches more in the next 15 years, with 1-4 feet very likely by 2100, and as much as 8 feet physically possible by 2100.
  • Sea level rise has already increased the frequency of high tide flooding by a factor of 5 to 10 since the 1960s for some U.S. coastal communities.
  • Climate change is already hurting coastal ecosystems, posing a threat to the fisheries and tourism industries as well as public safety and human health. Continuing coastal impacts will worsen pre-existing social inequities as vulnerable communities reckon with how to adapt.

Every American’s health is at risk from climate change, with the elderly, young, working class and communities of color being particularly vulnerable.

  • Reducing greenhouse gas emissions will, by the end of the century, potentially save thousands of lives annually, and generate hundreds of billions of dollars of health-related economic benefits compared to a high emissions scenario.
  • Allergies like hay fever and asthma are likely already becoming more frequent and severe.
  • Warmer temperatures are expected to alter the range of mosquitoes and ticks that carry vector-borne diseases like Zika, West Nile virus, dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever.
  • Drier conditions in Arizona and California have led to greater growth of the fungus that leads to Valley Fever (coccidioidomycosis) while Cryptococcal infections were strictly tropical before 1999, but have moved northward, with Oregon experiencing 76 cases in 2015.
  • West Nile is projected to double by 2050, with a $1 billion annual price tag.

Transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources will reduce the risks of climate impacts.

  • A certain amount of warming is likely “locked in” so adaptation is still required.
  • The faster we reduce global warming emissions, the less risk we face and the cheaper it will be to adapt.

 

11/16/18

  12:14:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 350 words  
Categories: Climate Change

NY Times asks: How much Hotter is Your Hometown than when You were Born?

Nothing warms the cockles of a data-geek’s heart more than seeing really cool data visualizations, and if that visualization  helps illustrate a vital subject in an easy-to-grasp manner, well that is a data geek jackpot.  Probably no one does data visualizations better than the folks at the New York Times, and their latest is amazing - driving home the impact of climate change in a way that is both personal and dramatic.

Titled, “How much Hotter is Your Hometown than when You were Born?” it allows the user to enter their hometown (Los Angeles, in my case) and year of birth.  According to their dataset, there were roughly 55 days when I was born where you could expect temperatures to reach 90 degrees (F).  Scroll down the page, and a graph is charted, showing the increase in days reaching 90 over the years, hitting 67 days in 2017, as you can see here:

 hotter in la

But if you continue to scroll down it gets even more alarming:

LA temps in 2089

Wow - at present trends, by 2089 there could be anywhere from 84 to 104 days of 90 degrees or better, with 93 days being the most likely number.  But these predictions assume that the world will adhere to the Paris Climate Agreement, and given recent developments in both the U.S. and Brazil, that is increasingly unlikely.

Of course it isn’t just the heat, it’s the humidity, and the visualization notes that areas with higher humidity than LA will feel the heat even more.

On the other hand, areas that experience dry heat, are likely to experience greater drought, and as we have so painfully seen these past few weeks, even more intense and deadly wildfires.

In other parts of the world the forecast is even more daunting.  Take a city like Jakarta - it already averages more than five months of temperatures above 90!

Map showing heat in Jakarta

According to those projections, by the end of the century, temperatures above 90 degrees in Jakarta, “may last for most of the year.

There is a lot more useful information there and I encourage you to check it out.  Would that all information about Climate Change were presented in an equally compelling manner - bravo, NYT!

08/06/17

  02:48:00 pm, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 165 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Climate Change

100 Years of Global Warming in 35 Seconds!

As regular readers of this blog know, we are major “data geeks” here at Run on Sun, and there is hardly anything that lights our fires more than a brilliantly executed data visualization!  Well Antti Lipponen, a researcher at the Finnish Meteorological Institute, has just published what may be one of the greatest data visualizations ever, demonstrating 100 years of global warming in a mesmerizing 35 seconds! (H/T Yale Environment 360.)

Check it out…

Using temperature data from the world’s 191 countries, Lipponen’s stunning video turns a boring dataset into a compelling image of the rapid change that we are experiencing.  Using both color (warmer temperatures appear in warmer colors) and height (the length of each country’s bar is its departure from the averaged baseline), you can almost feel the pulse of the ever-warming Earth.

This visualization brings vividly home that we have a lot of work ahead of us, and such is the power of data used properly.  Congratulations, Mr. Lipponen, you are our new favorite data geek!

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Jim Jenal is the Founder & CEO of Run on Sun, Pasadena's premier installer and integrator of top-of-the-line solar power installations.
Run on Sun also offers solar consulting services, working with consumers, utilities, and municipalities to help them make solar power affordable and reliable.

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