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   PoliticsRat's Nest - Chronicles of Collapse

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From: Wharf Rat2/17/2024 10:53:17 PM
1 Recommendation   of 23933
Make way for more microgrids: SDG&E adds 4 in these neighborhoods (

Story by Rob Nikolewski, The San Diego Union-Tribune • 3d

San Diego Gas & Electric's 10-megawatt Paradise Microgrid project is one of a growing number of facilities that can operate independently or in tandem with the regional electric grid.© Rob Nikolewski/The San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS

Micro is quickly becoming macro.

San Diego Gas & Electric has unveiled four new microgrids that will go online within the next 90 days, boosting the number in its service territory to eight — and the utility has plans to build at least three more in the next two years.

Growing in popularity in California, microgrids essentially act as mini-electric grids that can supply power to a defined area while operating independently of the conventional electric power system for hours at a time during emergencies, such as power outages or when the state's electric grid is under stress.

The new microgrids are in Clairemont, Tierrasanta, Paradise Hills and the East County town of Boulevard.

The facilities are connected by circuit to substations in their respective sites, and can operate remotely or in tandem with the larger regional grid.

The systems are powered by energy storage batteries. There have been instances of batteries catching fire, but the four SDG&E sites are powered by lithium iron phosphate battery cells that are considered safer, with less risk of fire.

"Safety-wise, this is probably the most-state-of-the-art as it comes right now," said Don Balfour, SDG&E's project manager for clean technology. "You have gas detection, fire detection, smoke detection. All of that's embedded inside now."

The four microgrids offer combined storage capacity of 39 megawatts and 180 megawatt-hours. SDG&E officials say that's enough to supply power to about 26,000 homes for four or more hours when needed.

The 10-megawatt Paradise Microgrid has the ability to power the Southeast Division Police Department, Fire Stations 51 and 32, one middle school and three elementary schools in the area. The energy storage system is connected to SDG&E's Paradise Substation next door.

Adjacent to SDG&E's Elliott Substation, the 10-megawatt microgrid in Tierrasanta has capacity to power Fire Station 39, the area's medical center, the Tierrasanta Public Library and Cool Zone during heat waves, one middle school, two elementary schools and Canyon Hills High School.

The Clairemont microgrid can serve Fire Station 36, the Balboa Branch Library and Cool Zone. two elementary schools, a middle school and Madison High School with 9 megawatts of capacity. The microgrid is connected to SDG&E's Clairemont Substation near Derrick Drive.

Linked to an SDG&E substation, the 10-megawatt microgrid in Boulevard serves as many as nine facilities that include three fire stations, three tribal offices and health care facilities, the Boulevard Border Patrol Station and the town's post office.

"These collaborations ensure that our communities have the necessary resources and infrastructure needed as we strive to meet our climate goals," said Miguel Romero, SDG&E vice president of energy innovation.

California policymakers intend to derive 60 percent of the state's electricity from renewable energy by 2030 and 100 percent from carbon-free sources by 2045.

With those renewable energy targets in mind, legislation out of Sacramento and mandates from the California Public Utilities Commission have ordered investor-owned utilities such as SDG&E to add microgrids and energy storage facilities to their power portfolios.

The projects can also help the California Independent System Operator maintain the state's electric grid.

Solar production during the day is abundant but virtually disappears after the sun sets, which drains the power system of valuable megawatts of clean energy — especially on hot days when consumers use their air conditioners into the early evening hours.

Batteries can help solve the problem by storing the excess during the day and then deploying those molecules at the same time solar production wanes each evening.

But the costs of storage and microgrid projects are folded into the rates utility customers pay in their ever-increasing monthly bills.

As per California Public Utilities Commission rules, the costs of the four new microgrid projects will be kept confidential for at least three years. But SDG&E officials say constructing the facilities next to existing substations helps defray costs that get passed onto ratepayers.

"We just came through very severe storms," Romero said of the recent dumping of rainfall that flooded some areas of San Diego, "and from an outage standpoint, this will be able to protect you from that. But ultimately, this asset is providing further benefits to the region and to the state of California in meeting its renewable supply needs."

SDG&E has four other microgrid projects that are already up and running — an 8-megawatt facility in Borrego Springs, 2 megawatts at the Miguel Substation in Bonita, 1 megawatt in Carmel Valley and a one-half megawatt facility in Ramona.

Besides utilities, community choice energy programs such as San Diego Community Power and the Clean Energy Alliance are looking into microgrid projects. Municipalities are getting into the act, too.

Last summer, the city of San Diego unveiled the first of at least eight microgrids that will be built at city facilities.

This story originally appeared in San Diego Union-Tribune.

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From: Wharf Rat2/18/2024 1:43:39 PM
1 Recommendation   of 23933
Developers plan to build a first-of-its-kind energy storage system that will set global records: ‘The expansion of energy storage infrastructure is key’ (

Story by Jeremiah Budin • 6d

This project will be the largest energy storage system of its kind in the world.© Provided by The Cool Down

Afirst-of-its-kind project for the United States has received a grant of up to $30 million from the government, the project’s developers announced.

Alliant Energy and WEC Energy Group, co-owners of Wisconsin’s Columbia Energy Center, will use the funding from the Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations to create the country’s first compressed carbon dioxide long-duration energy storage system.

The idea of the system is that it can turn carbon dioxide gas into a liquid for easier storage when energy is abundant. When energy is needed, it turns the carbon dioxide back into gas, which then powers an electricity-generating turbine.

Crucially, the setup operates as a closed-loop system, meaning that it should release no carbon dioxide and require no additional carbon dioxide after it is built out.

In addition to being first in the U.S., the Columbia Energy Storage Project will be the largest compressed carbon dioxide long-duration energy storage system in the world. A much smaller version of the same project is already operational in Sardinia, Italy. The two projects were designed by the same company, Energy Dome, which is based in Italy.

The Sardinia system has achieved an enviable 75% efficiency rate — which the much larger Wisconsin one will hope to match.

Currently, the Columbia Energy Center is Wisconsin’s largest remaining coal plant. It was supposed to be retired in 2024, but that date was pushed back to mid-2026. Its eventual transition into a much more sustainable battery storage system is good news for Wisconsinites and the planet.

“The expansion of energy storage infrastructure is key to accelerating the transition to cleaner, more sustainable renewable energy,” a spokesperson for Alliant said. “As we retire older fossil fuel facilities and add additional renewable resources to our generation portfolio, energy storage solutions help to ensure system reliability and meet customer needs.”

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From: Wharf Rat2/20/2024 12:43:18 PM
   of 23933
OPEC Update, February 2024 – Peak Oil Barrel
02/19/2024 D Coyne

The OPEC Monthly Oil Market Report (MOMR) for February 2024 was published recently. The last month reported in most of the OPEC charts that follow is January 2024 and output reported for OPEC nations is crude oil output in thousands of barrels per day (kb/d). In the OPEC charts that follow the blue line with markers is monthly output and the thin red line is the centered twelve month average (CTMA) output.


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From: Wharf Rat2/20/2024 11:35:14 PM
   of 23933
Company breaks ground on game-changing technology that turns waste into energy: ‘It’s just such a win’ (

Story by Susan Elizabeth Turek • 30m

Company breaks ground on game-changing technology that turns waste into energy: ‘It’s just such a win’© Provided by The Cool Down

It appears we are one step closer to the large-scale adoption of green hydrogen thanks to one company’s game-changing technology that repurposes metal waste.

Fuel Cell Works reported that GenHydro broke ground on Dec. 6 for a pilot project that will bring renewable electricity to Burle Business Park, which is located in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and has more than 40 commercial and industrial tenants.

“Today marks a significant milestone for GenHydro and the advancement of renewable energy. We have taken another large step forward, driving progress towards a more sustainable and economically viable future,” GenHydro founder and CEO Eric Schraud said in a statement.

To generate the fuel from its GenHydro GH-1 Reactor, GenHydro says that it uses a chemical promoter, high pressure, and high heat. This frees hydrogen gas from “micron-sized particles” of aluminum wast e, which will be provided by partner Evergreen Alumina.

“To use things that already exist and otherwise would have filled landfills, it’s just such a win,” Burle Business Park senior vice president Althea Ramsay Carrigan said in a statement published by Fuel Cell Works.

Steam that is left over from the process is then recycled to continue the pollution-free reaction.

Governments around the world have already begun ramping up their clean-energy grids with great success, with solar and wind power rightfully receiving a significant amount of attention.

As the Columbia Climate School detailed, though, “most experts” believe that green hydrogen will be an essential tool in limiting the rise of global temperatures by 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit above preindustrial levels.

Getting there hasn’t come without its challenges. Even though hydrogen is abundant in the universe, the process of separating it from other elements on Earth can be energy-intensive.

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From: Wharf Rat2/21/2024 6:56:01 PM
   of 23933
Scientists say they can use AI to solve a key problem in the quest for near-limitless clean energy (
Story by By Angela Dewan, CNN • 1h

Scientists pursuing fusion energy say they have found a way to overcome one of their biggest challenges to date — by using artificial intelligence.

Nuclear fusion has for decades been hailed as a near-limitless source of clean energy, in what would be a game-changing solution to the climate crisis. But experts have only achieved and sustained fusion energy for a few seconds, and many obstacles remain, including instabilities in the highly complex process.

There are several ways to achieve fusion energy, but the most common involves using hydrogen variants as an input fuel and raising temperatures to extraordinarily high levels in a donut-shaped machine, known as a tokamak, to create a plasma, a soup-like state of matter.

But that plasma needs to be controlled and is highly susceptible to “tearing” and escaping the machine’s powerful magnetic fields that are designed to keep the plasma contained.

On Wednesday, researchers from Princeton University and the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory reported in the journal Nature they found a way to use AI to forecast these potential instabilities and prevent them from happening in real time.

The team carried out their experiments at the DIII-D National Fusion Facility in San Diego, and found that their AI controller could forecast potential plasma tearing up to 300 milliseconds in advance. Without that intervention, the fusion reaction would have ended suddenly.

“The experiments provide a foundation for using AI to solve a broad range of plasma instabilities, which have long hindered fusion energy,” a Princeton spokesperson said.

The findings are “definitely” a step forward for nuclear fusion, said Egemen Kolemen, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Princeton University and an author on the study.

“This is one of the big roadblocks — disruptions — and you want any reactor to be operating 24/7 for years without any problem,” Kolemen told CNN. “And these type disruption and instabilities would be very problematic, so developing solutions like this increase their confidence that we can run these machines without any issues.”

Fusion energy is the process that powers the sun and other stars, and experts have been trying for decades to master it on Earth. It is achieved when two atoms that usually repel are forced to fuse together. It’s the opposite of nuclear fission — the type widely used today — which relies on splitting atoms.

Scientists and engineers near the English city of Oxford earlier this month set a new nuclear fusion energy record, sustaining 69 megajoules of fusion energy for five seconds, using just 0.2 milligrams of fuel. That’s enough to power roughly 12,000 households for the same amount of time.

But that experiment still used more energy as input than it generated. Another team in California, however, managed to produce a net amount of fusion energy in December 2022, in a process called “ignition.” They have replicated ignition three times since.

Despite the promising progress, fusion energy is a long way from becoming commercially available – well beyond the years that deep, sustained cuts to planet-warming pollution are required to stave off worsening impacts of the climate crisis.

Scientists say those pollution cuts are required this decade.

CNN’s Rachel Ramirez contributed to this report.

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From: Wharf Rat2/21/2024 7:01:12 PM
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Gold hydrogen: a near limitless supply of clean fuel? (

Story by Chas Newkey-Burden, The Week UK • 1d

The perpetual flames of Turkey’s Mount Chimaera is caused by the release of natural hydrogen© imageBROKER/Shutterstock

Start-ups are scrambling to discover sources of so-called "gold hydrogen" after experts said the low-cost, low-impact energy could be an environmentally friendly game-changer.

A recent discovery means that the planet could contain "near-limitless clean fuel", said New Scientist, but experts are also urging caution as the hype builds.

So what is gold hydrogen, how much of it could be under our feet and is it really as useful as has been claimed?

How is hydrogen currently obtained? Hydrogen will be an "essential fuel in years to come", said the BBC, because it does not produce CO2 when used as a fuel or in industrial processes. But the "big drawback", according to the Carbon Trust, is that less than 1% of current global hydrogen production is emissions-free.

Currently, we have to make hydrogen ourselves, which involves using energy and producing pollution. Grey and blue hydrogen are produced by splitting methane into carbon dioxide and hydrogen, with the CO2 captured and stored in the latter case. Black hydrogen is produced by partially burning coal and there's also pink hydrogen, made using nuclear energy.

Green hydrogen, "that elusive 1%", said the BBC, is created through the electrolysis of water into oxygen and hydrogen, but it is "relatively expensive and in short supply". So this is where gold hydrogen could come in.

GM & Honda are fueling change with hydrogen fuel cells

What is gold hydrogen?New geological research suggests that "cheap and plentiful supplies" of naturally occurring hydrogen could be "found right under our feet", wrote David Waltham, a geophysics professor at Royal Holloway, University of London, on The Conversation.

Gold hydrogen, also sometimes known as white hydrogen, is a naturally occurring gas trapped in pockets under the ground – in much the same way as oil and natural gas.

It is produced when the gas occurs naturally deep underground and can be harvested through drilling, with no need to expend energy on synthesis.

It is "colourless and odourless", explained New Scientist, and has "good environmental credentials" because it "burns cleanly, producing nothing but water".

Where has it been found?In October 2023, researchers at the French National Centre of Scientific Research discovered a "particularly large reservoir" of natural hydrogen in northeastern France’s Lorraine coal basin, wrote Waltham.

The reservoir may contain 250 million tonnes of naturally occurring hydrogen – enough to provide almost as much energy as the UK's largest oil field. It may represent the largest naturally occurring deposit of the gas ever found, enough to meet current global demand for more than two years.

Other, smaller reservoirs have been found in Spain and across Europe, as well as in Mali, Namibia, Brazil and the US. None has been discovered in the UK but experts are actively considering whether to search.

Ultimately, according to modelling by the US Geological Survey, there could be trillions of tonnes available, and if just a fraction of that could be recovered, it would be enough to meet our projected hydrogen demand for many centuries to come.

'Wait-and-see' attitudeDespite the exciting possibilities, there are "reasons to be cautious", said New Scientist, because "the true amount of hydrogen the planet contains, as well as how much might be feasible to extract, remains uncertain".

The gas is found in large volumes, so it needs to be compressed or converted into other chemicals, such as liquid ammonia, before it can be easily moved. This process could require the construction of new pipelines, which is a significant undertaking.

That's why experts are still debating whether gold hydrogen will turn out to be an over-hyped fad or a potentially game-changing discovery.

"So far," said the BBC, "the major energy players are holding back", with just start-ups getting involved. Oil giants are "very interested" but they're "currently sitting on the sidelines, watching, taking a bit of a wait-and-see attitude", Geoffrey Ellis, from the US Geological Survey, told the broadcaster.

There is also the danger that exploiting natural hydrogen deposits "could be used as an excuse to foot-drag" on the need to cut greenhouse gas emissions immediately, said Waltham. So there's a "long way to go" before we can say for sure how useful these stores will be.

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From: Wharf Rat2/23/2024 5:02:17 PM
   of 23933
Aerial photo captures visual proof of massive US high-speed rail project construction underway: ‘It was very cool to see’ (

High-speed rail is supposed to be coming to California, and an image recently shared to social media indicates that the promising initiative isn’t just a pipe dream.

In the subreddit r/trains, a Redditor posted a screenshot of a Google Earth map in which the high-speed rail row was visible.

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From: Wharf Rat2/25/2024 1:29:18 PM
1 Recommendation   of 23933
No, electric vehicle sales aren’t dropping. Here’s what’s really going on (

Story by By Peter Valdes-Dapena, CNN • 3h

Tesla has been slashing prices. Ford just cut the price of its Mustang Mach-E, too, plus it cut back production of its electric pickup. And General Motors is thinking about bringing back plug-in hybrids, possibly taking a step back from GM’s earlier commitment to shifting straight to pure EVs.

And now the EPA is considering slowing down requirements for automakers to sell more electric vehicles, dialing back what had been aggressive plans to move away from gas powered cars and SUVs.

You’d be forgiven for thinking the American market for EVs is collapsing. But in the last quarter of 2023, EV sales were up 40% from the same quarter a year before, according to Cox Automotive. In fact, EV sales in the United States hit a record last year, topping 1 million for the first time.

Still there is still a troubling gap between expectations and reality. Bloomberg New Energy Finance, for instance, projected sales of 1.7 million plug-in vehicles in 2023, but only 1.46 million ultimately sold. (BNEF’s figures include plug-in hybrids, but the large majority are fully electric vehicles.) The trend line isn’t slanting upward as sharply as many had predicted so the industry is lowering future estimates.

Industry experts cite a number of reasons for this, including vehicle price, lack of charging capacity and confusing tax credit rules.

High pricesMost electric vehicles currently on sale in America are on the more expensive side of the automotive market.

“Between $50,000 and $60,000 now we get Kia and we get Cadillac,” said Tyson Jominy, an industry analyst with J.D. Power, referring to the Kia EV9 and Cadillac Lyriq electric vehicles. “Those two don’t normally face each other.”

Besides being too expensive for the average buyer, selection is limited in terms of body style, said Corey Cantor, an industry analyst with Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The vast majority are relatively expensive SUVs, and there are few sedans or compact cars for customers who want something different.

The target customer is also changing as selling more EVs means reaching outside a core of knowledgable EV enthusiasts.

“As the COVID shock retreated, we learned that as you scale EVs to 5,000, to 7,000 units a month and you move into the early majority customer, they are not willing to pay a significant premium for EVs,” Ford chief executive Jim Farley. “This is a huge moment for us.”

This is why Ford recently cut prices for the Mach-E SUV and why Farley created a team to work on a less expensive EV engineering platform that will be the basis for future models.

Charging neededThen there’s the continued lack of public charging. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory, part of the US Department of Energy, estimates that the US will need 182,000 fast chargers for electric vehicles by 2030. There are currently fewer than 40,000, according to the DOE, with about a quarter of those in California.

Besides raw numbers, the EV chargers that are currently available tend t o rate low with consumers in terms of reliability, according to J.D.. Power surveys.

The two issues of vehicle price and public charging are related, Jominy said. People who can afford to buy luxury-priced vehicles are also more likely to have a home in the suburbs with a garage where they can charge their car overnight. Public chargers are more important to people who can afford neither an expensive vehicle nor a house with private parking.

Automakers are finally taking major steps to do something about that, tapping into newly available federal funds, plus their own money, to install more chargers.

BMW, GM, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Mercedes-Benz, and Stellantis have come together to create a joint venture that plans to install about 30,000 chargers across the United States and Canada.

Also, to make things simpler for drivers, every major automaker in the US has agreed to switch over to the same charging standard used by Tesla, still the largest seller of EVs. That means that, in a few years, almost all EVs sold in America will have the same type of charging port and use the same type of charger.

There’s a long way to go, said Carlos Tavares, chief executive of Stellantis, the company that makes Jeep and Dodge vehicles. In the words of the Portuguese auto executive, who spoke to journalists in New York recently, public EV charging needs to “jump on your face” before most customers will consider an electric vehicle.

“It means when you go to the mall, when you go to the supermarket, when you go to the restaurant, when you go to gym, when you park your car, you have charging units waiting for you,” he said. “You don’t have to look for them.”

EV chargers in the US are nowhere near that level, yet but things will improve, said Valdez Streaty.

“I think, in the next couple of years, we’re going to start to see exponential growth of charging,” she said, “and hopefully, with that comes reliability, because that’s the other big aspect of it.”

Credit confusionMany substantial tax credits are available to help offset the cost of purchasing electric vehicles, but the rules are complex. Some come with restrictions on where the vehicle is built, where the battery pack and its parts are from, the price of the vehicle, and the household income of the buyer.

More models are becoming eligible as automakers go through the complex application process. Also, starting this year, customers can claim the tax credit as a rebate at the time of purchase rather than waiting until they file their taxes.

Leasing also provides a way for more consumers to get tax credits. Because of the way tax laws are written, leased vehicles are exempt from most restrictions on federal tax credits, so many automakers offer the tax credit as a lease incentive.

“We’re going to see leasing take off and that’s because of the loophole,” said Valdez Streaty, “but also because consumers are not sure if they want to buy, or if they’re ready to buy, electric.”

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From: Wharf Rat2/25/2024 1:43:18 PM
1 Recommendation   of 23933
Sheep may soon graze under solar panels in one of Wyoming’s first ‘agrivoltaic’ projects (
Story by Jake Bolster, Inside Climate News • 4h

This story was originally published by Inside Climate News and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Converse County is one of the most welcoming areas in Wyoming when it comes to clean energy. For roughly every 20 residents, there is one wind turbine, the highest ratio in the state. At a recent County Commissioners meeting, it took another step in diversifying its energy infrastructure, signaling its intent to issue its first solar farm permit to BrightNight.

The global energy company has proposed to build more than 1 million solar panels, a battery storage facility and a few miles of above-ground transmission lines on a 4,738 acres of private land run by the Tillard ranching family near Glenrock. The Dutchman Project, as it is called, is notable neither for its generation nor its storage capacity but for the creatures moseying beneath its panels.

The base of each sun-tracking panel will be several feet off the ground, allowing enough room for the Tillard’s sheep to continue grazing. In a state whose ranching industry predates its inclusion in the union, pairing solar generation with livestock grazing or other agricultural practices, a technique called “agrivoltaics,” could forge an unlikely alliance between two industries — one ancient; the other, high tech — that typically compete for resources.

At the conclusion of their February 6 hearing regarding the Dutchman project, Converse County Commissioners directed the county attorney to draft an order of approval, indicating they would likely grant the project its permit later this month.

“BrightNight is proud to reach today’s permitting milestone. Our project is ideally-sited to deliver valuable capacity to a growing region preparing for significant generation retirements,” said Maribeth Sawchuk, the company’s vice president of communications, in a statement to Inside Climate News. The company is focused on “utility-scale renewable power solutions while also raising the industry standard for community engagement and support.”

The Tillard family could not be reached for comment.

Inside Climate News© Provided by Grist

Jim Willox, chairman of the board of Converse County Commissioners and one of the people responsible for reviewing BrightNight’s permit application, remembered being excited to see the company proposing to use an agrivoltaic approach to building solar.

“I think the solar industry has learned that they don’t have to be just bare ground underneath,” he said. “I find that very exciting and a continuation of Wyoming’s view on multiple use.”

Willox has been a Converse County Commissioner for the last 18 years, during which he’s witnessed the rise, fall, and rise again of fossil fuels in the county. When he first started his job, coal production was a huge economic asset to the county. Now, “it’s zero,” he said.

While fossil fuels still play an important role in the county’s economy, and Converse County still takes an “all of these above” approach to energy development, “we also really believe renewables are part of the energy portfolio for the country and generally are welcoming to them,” Willox said.

Economically, Willox viewed the solar farm as a good source of tax revenue for the county. “You’ll have sales tax that will be collected during construction, then there will be a property tax value increase,” money from BrightNight that can be used for schools, hospitals, and other public resources in the county, he said.

Still, renewables — much like oil, gas, and coal — are not without “some challenges and some concerns,” Willox said.

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How much carbon can farmers store in their soil? Nobody’s sure.

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A few partnerships between farmers and scientists have shown that some crops react poorly to living under the penumbra of a solar farm. Shade from the panels can sometimes trap too much water near the plants, and the presence of large photovoltaics can make it difficult for farmers to conduct their harvest.

At the public briefing held in Douglas, Wyoming, on Tuesday, county residents gathered in a courthouse basement to hear presentations from BrightNight executives regarding the Dutchman solar farm’s permit application. Afterwards, some county residents voiced concerns regarding the solar farm’s access to transmission lines, its impact on prairie dog migration patterns and the effects of radiation on residents.

BrightNight must wait for its county and state permits before determining its grid access, said Jess Melin, BrightNight’s executive vice president of development. As with other nearby energy projects going through the permitting and contracting phases, Melin said once BrightNight has “a permit and a power contract, that’s the point when they say ‘OK, let’s actually sit down at the table and negotiate queue position,’” for delivering energy to the grid.

Brandon Pollpeter, BrightNight’s director of development, called prairie dog migration a “difficult thing to manage,” and said the company would coordinate with the Wyoming Game and Fish department to consider best practices for responding to the rodents. He added that any high-voltage equipment, which produces a small amount of electromagnetic waves, has been sited far from the community, and would not be a factor to county residents.

“This county is very knowledgeable on energy and energy generation,” said Pollpeter. “We’ve gotten some outstanding feedback.” Pollpeter added that BrightNight increased the project setback and moved its construction entrance in response to local concerns.

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As states slash rooftop solar incentives, Puerto Rico extends them

Gabriela Aoun Angueira

There is evidence that agrivoltaic solar farms are just as effective grazing areas as traditional open pastures, and that combining grazing with solar generation increases land productivity by offering crops respite from the sun in hot, arid environments.

In the spring of 2019 and 2020, Chad Higgins and a team of other researchers from Oregon State University tracked sheep grazing at an agrivoltaic solar farm in Oregon, measuring the animals’ growth, grazing habits and water consumption. They split two groups of sheep on the same land; one that grazed near the solar panels, and another browsing on open pastures. What they found led them to conclude that agrivoltaic solar farms can be an ideal setup for sheep ranchers.

“In the early spring grazing time, which is when the most intense grazing is and the most growth is, we could put more sheep on the agrivoltaic array than on the open pasture, and the sheep grew at the same rates,” said Higgins, an associate professor in Oregon State University’s department of biological and ecological engineering. “There was overall more production in that intense grazing period because of the solar panels.”

The reason why has to do with shade. “You can reduce heat stress to plants by watering them more or shading them some,” Higgins said. “If you shade them some — which is what you’re going to do, for example, in a Wyoming project that’s on non-irrigated lands — you’re going to reduce some of that heat stress on those plants. Those plants tend to grow a little more, and as they grow a little more, the sheep take advantage of them.”

The study found that, while the sheep grazing near the solar panels experienced a 38 percent drop in the quantity of grazable vegetation, that was offset by an increase in the available plants’ quality, as measured by the nutritional makeup of the vegetation’s tissue. Despite having access to less vegetation, the sheep grazing near solar panels “were gaining weight at their maximum rate,” and reached similar peak weights to sheep on the open field, Higgins said. “We actually had to fence the sheep in the open field to keep them in the open field, because, given the choice, they all preferred to be in the solar.”

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Agrivoltaic solar farms, while suitable for sheep, are more difficult to tailor to cattle, Wyoming’s most common livestock. The state is home to 1.2 million cattle, which are burlier and heavier than sheep. Cows “just beat up equipment by rubbing up against it,” Pollpeter said. The solar industry “is taking a tough look to try and see how that starts to make sense. But, at least in my personal opinion, we’re not quite there yet.”

Among Wyoming’s sheep ranchers, there may be a budding interest in agrivoltaics. “If there are opportunities to make the two work together that provide sheep producers expanded revenue and better financial stability, that’s the type of thing we look for,” said Jim Magagna, a longtime sheep rancher and executive vice president of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, the state’s most powerful livestock advocacy organization.

Given the variation in soil, grazing plants, sunlight, moisture, and terrain across Wyoming, Magagna stopped short of endorsing agrivoltaics as the de facto approach to solar farms moving forward. “I think it needs to be a carefully considered decision by the landowner,” he said.

Magagna wouldn’t rule out the possibility of an agrivoltaic solar farm cropping up on public land in the future, a process that would involve years of planning and environmental assessments by the Bureau of Land Management, or BLM, as well as stakeholder input. But given the fact that a majority of public lands in Wyoming are grazed by cattle, “I think the opportunity to do that on public land on a very significant scale would not be there today,” he said.

In January, the BLM released an environmental impact statement regarding utility-scale solar farms in 11 Western states, including Wyoming, as it considers whether or not to amend its approach to solar farms in the region. The agency acknowledged agrivolatics as an “emerging [photovoltaic] system” that could gain commercial traction in the future.

Converse County Commissioners expect to finalize their support for the Dutchman project permit during a February 20th vote. The company still needs to secure a permit from the state’s Department of Environmental Quality, whose Industrial Siting Council is already considering the company’s application. Should the state issue it a permit, BrightNight expects to break ground on the Dutchman solar farm as early as March of next year.

This story was originally published by Grist with the headline Sheep may soon graze under solar panels in one of Wyoming’s first ‘agrivoltaic’ projects on Feb 25, 2024.

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To: Wharf Rat who wrote (23843)2/26/2024 9:11:45 AM
From: Eric
   of 23933

Credit: American Association of Manufacturers

AAM Calls Cheap Chinese EVs Built In Mexico “An Extinction Level Event”

13 hours ago

Steve Hanley 64 Comments

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The Alliance for American Manufacturing is a non-profit, non-partisan partnership formed in 2007 by some of America’s leading manufacturers and the United Steelworkers. Its mission is to strengthen American manufacturing and create new private sector jobs through smart public policies. It believes an innovative and growing manufacturing base is vital to America’s economic and national security, as well as providing good jobs for future generations. It also believes EVs built in Mexico by Chinese companies could be a threat to America’s economic security.

On February 20, 2024, it issued a report warning that cheap Chinese electric cars manufactured in Mexico could be the death knell for US automakers. That report warns about “China’s Existential Threat To America’s Auto Industry And Its Route Through Mexico.” The focus of the report has been turbocharged by reports that BYD is scouting locations for a new factory in Mexico.

China, Mexico, & USMCA

The problem, of course, is that Mexico is an integral part of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) that became effective on July 1, 2020, replacing the previous North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). By virtue of that agreement, products manufactured in Mexico can enter the United States without paying import taxes or duties. The basic idea is Mexico, the United States, and Canada are all one big happy family where everyone works together collaboratively to create good jobs for all. That’s the theory. The reality is rather more nuanced.

Picture this. Electric cars built in Mexico will be eligible — if they meet all the requirements on battery materials and component sourcing — for the full $7500 federal tax credit/rebate. How is that going to play in Peoria? “The introduction of cheap Chinese autos — which are so inexpensive because they are backed with the power and funding of the Chinese government — to the American market could end up being an extinction-level event for the U.S. auto sector,” the AAM report warns.

The AAM argues the United States should work to prevent automobiles and parts manufactured in Mexico by companies headquartered in China from benefiting from the USMCA. “The commercial back door left open to Chinese auto imports should be shut before it causes mass plant closures and job losses in the United States,” it says.

BYD Is Disrupting The Disruptors

BYD is the cause of most of this angst. It sells the Qin Pluis plug-in hybrid in China for just $14,000. Is it a car Americans would buy? Maybe, maybe not, but the idea that a company can produce an actual car so cheaply and sell it at a profit (we presume) scares the bejezus out of American car companies. Even Elon Musk is worried and he knows a thing or two about what it costs to build cars in China.

BYD is really just the tip of the spear. Once it sets up shop in Mexico, other Chinese electric car companies like Nio and Xpend and Zeekr are sure to follow. So the US is on the horns of a dilemma largely of its own making. When USMCA was finalized less than 4 years ago, no one could imagine Chinese made cars might one day be manufactured in Mexico. But the market has changed dramatically in less than four years.

In a statement, the Chinese embassy in Washington told Reuters that China’s automobile exports “reflect the high-quality development and strong innovation of China’s manufacturing industry. The leapfrog development of China’s auto industry has provided cost-effective products with high quality to the world.”

The Law Of Unintended Consequences

The US has always been a strong advocate for forcing other companies to open their markets (viz, China). Now the shoe is on the other foot, which must be a bit disconcerting to the free traders who thought the benefits of globalization would always favor America over all other nations. What no one anticipated was how the Chinese central government would create special areas of interest in electronics, batteries, and automobile manufacturing that would give China a huge advantage in those industries. But now the servant has become the master. It is like the limerick by William Monkhouse:

There was a young lady of Niger
Who smiled as she rode on a tiger;
They returned from the ride
With the lady inside,
And the smile on the face of the tiger.

Members of Congress from both parties are beating the drum for special levies that would apply to vehicles made by Chinese owned companies who manufacture them in Mexico. How that could possibly square with the various free trade agreements the US has entered into and the rules of the World Trade Organization is not mentioned. What isn’t being said is that Ford, GM, Mercedes, and others all build cars in Mexico for sale in the US. How can you penalize corporations from one country and not others? That’s the nub of the problem.

Those members of Congress are urging US Trade Representative Katherine Tai to boost the 27.5% tariff on Chinese vehicles and said her office “must also be prepared to address the coming wave of (Chinese) vehicles that will be exported from our other trading partners, such as Mexico, as (Chinese) automakers look to strategically establish operations outside of (China).”

The Takeaway

There is more than a little irony to all this huffing and puffing about an “existential crisis.” The real existential crisis is global heating caused in part by the tailpipe emissions from conventional cars that traditional automakers manufacture by the millions. From one perspective, affordable electric cars from Chinese-owned companies would help reduce carbon emissions in America and Europe. How odd that people can see one existential crisis but not another.

Europe is just as concerned about a flood of Chinese cars damaging its car makers as is the US. BYD has just sent 5000 EVs to Europe on its own ocean-going car transporter. The auto industry supports millions of people who either help make vehicles or the parts that go into them. Many more are employed in the sale, financing, insuring, repairing and distribution of them. If the car companies were to suffer a devastating loss of business, the impact on all those direct and indirect jobs would be enormous.

An old adage says, “Be careful what you wish for; you just might get it.” Many wish for affordable electric cars. The Chinese seem set to deliver them. Not that BYD cars made in Mexico will be priced the same as they are in China. Mexican labor rates may be lower than than the US, but they are still higher higher than they are in China. That $14,000 Qin Plus PHEV in China might cost $28,000 in a US showroom. So the threat may not be quite as dire as people are saying.

This is a thorny thicket. No one wants to see American or European jobs in the auto sector lost, but how to manage the challenge of low cost electric cars from Chinese companies is a question with no easy answer. Knee-jerk protectionism doesn’t seem like the ideal answer, but what is? Please share your thoughts with the CleanTechnica community in the comments section.

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