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Wind Briefly Sets Record as Source for Electricity in U.S.

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By Scott DiSavino, Reuters

Wind briefly powered more than 50 percent of electric demand on Feb. 12, the 14-state Southwest Power Pool (SPP) said, for the first time on any North American power grid. 

SPP coordinates the flow of electricity on the high voltage power lines from Montana and North Dakota to New Mexico, Texas and Louisiana.

Windmills are seen in Mojave, Calif., Nov. 1, 2014.
Credit: REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

Wind power in the SPP region has grown significantly to over 16,000 MW currently from less than 400 megawatts in the early 2000s and is expected to continue growing. One megawatt can power about 1,000 homes.

“Ten years ago, we thought hitting even a 25 percent wind-penetration level would be extremely challenging, and any more than that would pose serious threats to reliability,” SPP Vice President of Operations Bruce Rew said in a statement.

“Now we have the ability to reliably manage greater than 50 percent wind penetration. It’s not even our ceiling,” Rew said.

Wind power briefly reached 52.1 percent at 4:30 a.m. local time on Sunday, SPP said on Monday, beating the previous penetration milestone of 49.2 percent. Wind penetration is a measure of the amount of total load served by wind at a given time.

Currently, wind is the third biggest source of generation in the SPP region, making up about 15 percent of capacity in 2016 behind natural gas and coal. This is the first time that wind was even briefly more than 50 percent of the source of electric power at any U.S. grid, according to SPP. 

“With a (generation) footprint as broad as ours, even if the wind stops blowing in the upper Great Plains, we can deploy resources waiting in the Midwest and Southwest to make up any sudden deficits,” Rew said.

Of the 11 states that received more than 10 percent of their power from wind in 2015, the top five are Iowa at 31 percent, South Dakota at 25 percent, Kansas at 24 percent, Oklahoma at 18 percent and North Dakota at 18 percent, all at least partially located in the SPP grid, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Some of the biggest wind farms in the grid are operated by units of Sempra Energy, BP Plc, EDP Energias de Portugal SA, Southern Co and NextEra Energy Inc.

Reporting by Eileen Soreng in Bangaluru and Scott DiSavino in New York; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe


Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Editor - February 19, 2017 at 6:01 am

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Struggling Sungevity Lays Off Workers After Merger Falls Through

Sungevity billed itself as a lean, “asset-light” residential solar company that could scale faster than the vertically integrated leaders like SolarCity, Vivint and Sunrun. 

The company just got leaner.

The solar firm laid off 66 employees from its Oakland headquarters January 12, government documents show. That was just under two weeks from the day that a planned reverse merger with shell company Easterly Corporation fell through.

The merger, announced last June, was meant to inject $200 million in capital to keep the solar operation running as cash ran low. Sungevity had never operated profitably in its nine years, but projected an inflection point in 2017. With that once-secure investment suddenly withdrawn, the company has scrambled to cut costs and find last minute sources of capital.

The financial troubles of this company, ranked fifth on GTM Research’s residential solar installation leaderboard, complicate the search for a truly profitable residential solar business model. Even as installations set new records and overall solar employment booms, the national firms at the top of the solar food chain have struggled to both scale up and make money.

Sungevity’s approach sounded good on paper: use software to generate quotes without the need for site visits, but outsource the hardware, installation and financing, keeping those off the balance sheet. The company could focus on customer relations without investing in all the capital intensive parts of the solar business. A Forbes article from September called Sungevity’s platform “a sophisticated departure from the way companies usually sell customers on solar.”

The company’s branding long made clear the areas where it doesn’t try to make its money, but lately it’s been harder to tell where it does.

Sungevity’s market share peaked at 2.5 percent in 2014 and was at 1.6 percent in Q3 2016, and total capacity installed peaked in Q1 2016, according to GTM Research data.

Even the lead generation, which appeared to be a key value-add of the model, was going out the door as Sungevity focused on turning itself into a “platform.” A document prepared for the merger in June projected that by 2018, 60 percent of sales would be generated by channel partners rather than Sungevity itself.

“Sungevity has started relying more on sales through channel partners as opposed to direct sales,” said Nicole Litvak, a senior analyst who covers the residential solar landscape at GTM Research. “They’re also not doing the financing, and they’re not doing the installation. Really they’re mostly a software company at this point.”

$850 million in VC and project financing spent

GTM has reported that Sungevity garnered a total of $850 million in VC and project financing, with an estimated $200 million of that coming as equity funding. Burning through millions is common among solar companies scaling up nationwide, and Sungevity was no exception.

“There’s a fundamental difference between an asset-light company and a capital-efficient company,” said one solar investor interviewed for this story. “The business model makes a tremendous amount of sense on paper, but they just couldn’t keep their spend under control.”

The company, which did not respond to requests for comment, reported $14.6 million in cash as of March 31, the same month it laid off 250 employees in the previous mass layoff. By June 30 that was down to $12.4 million. In that time its total assets shrank from $162.7 million to $142 million. Seven months have passed since that last disclosure.

Where does all the money go in an asset-light business? Not to buying modules or financing solar loans. The software seems to be the major expense — the Forbes article said Sungevity invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the web platform. Personnel would be the other biggie, hence the layoffs when cash ran low.

The initial innovation that spurred Sungevity’s rise was its remote imaging software, which enabled rooftop system design without rolling a van and created the possibility of selling solar over the phone.

It could be worthwhile to invest money up front in a web platform that allows a company to manage solar installations more cheaply than it costs to do them oneself. Sungevity, though, consistently spent more than it earned. The software platform reduced costs associated with the traditional solar sales cycle, but not enough to overcome operational losses.

Managing rooftop installations from afar generated its own costs. By choosing the role of solar concierge, Sungevity opted to pay a margin to outside installers, and pay its own employees to check in on the outside installers. That model creates cost opportunities that vertically integrated installers don’t face, even as it dodges some challenges that they do face.

Had Sungevity viewed itself as a solar software startup and licensed its customer acquisition platform for use by hands-on installers, it may have avoided the capital drain that comes from managing installations. Instead, the leadership split the difference, becoming a software company that’s not quite an installer, and an installer that’s not quite a software company. If it comes time to sell off the software IP, the company will have a problem: it only ever had one customer, and that customer isn’t in a position to write a glowing testimonial.

“The ironic thing here is that local installers actually do need some of the things Sungevity is doing,” Litvak said. “Customer acquisition is the biggest challenge and software is very necessary for that.”

In the last couple years, Sungevity seized on the vision of itself as a platform to connect customers with a network of solar installers and financiers. This allows it to serve many customers without having to invest in infrastructure in every market. By that point, though, much VC money had been spent, and market headwinds were blowing against all the national players.

‘These cuts are gnarly and deep’

The fact that Sungevity still stands today testifies to a last-minute influx of capital, but bridge loans don’t support long term success. Sungevity needs to either break into positive cash flow and survive on its own steam, or clean itself up enough to attract a new investment or acquisition.

The January layoffs work toward both ends in a brutal manner. The 250-person cut in March targeted “field sales personnel and related support functions” in the least profitable geographies, the company said at the time. The January round targeted fewer, but more senior and highly compensated team members, many of whom had served the company for years. 

“We’ve been through this before — the surprise was the depth and type and degree to which they had to make changes,” said one of the employees laid off in January. “These cuts are gnarly and deep.”

That outcome marked a sharp turnaround for a workforce that thought the merger was a done deal until Sungevity CEO Andrew Birch announced in December that it might not go through. The confirmation of that fact, for many in the workforce, came through a Greentech Media article published January 3, before the company communicated the development internally.

The plan for profitability laid out in the merger documents projected a switch to cash flow positive in 2017. The average price of systems sold was expected to increase slightly, while cost of goods sold per system and variable operating costs per system decrease. The number of residential systems deployed was expected to rise from approximately 9,600 in 2016 to 15,000 in 2017.

Sungevity expected that combination to close the gap with $77 million in fixed costs in 2017.

Whether those deployment numbers are achievable or not is debateable. One thing is clear, though: the profitability strategy relies on cheaper equipment and cheaper installs, and those are two areas that Sungevity outsourced to platform partners. What the company could directly control is its fixed costs, like salaries.

Cutting those could get the finances into more favorable territory for private equity investment or an acquisition.

“If they could produce the revenue with less Opex, they’re selling a cash flow positive business,” the solar investor said.

It raises a question, though, of what kind of purchase Sungevity would be. With the reduction in staff who aren’t bringing in revenue immediately, the ability to plan for future innovation has been constrained.

“If you’re a platform and a year from today you’re selling the same thing you are today, you’re probably going to be irrelevant,” said the former employee. “You’ll have a platform for whale oil.”

Sungevity does have an asset in its smaller but growing European operations, based out of the Netherlands. In partnership with utility E.ON, Sungevity also expanded into Germany, a market where, GTM reported, “the typical solar rooftop costs less — and customers… tend to pay in cash.” This is unusual for an American residential solar installer, and a larger company looking to sell solar on both continents could find this attractive.

Sungevity’s fate does not determine the merits of an asset-light platform model. It could still pull through to the era of profitability. What the history does show is that avoiding large asset costs isn’t enough to guarantee residential solar success.


Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Editor - February 18, 2017 at 6:01 am

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Scott Pruitt Is Confirmed to Lead the EPA, an Agency He Sued 13 Times

The U.S. Senate approved Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt today as head of the Environmental Protection Agency, throwing the future of the agency into doubt.

The heavily contested decision puts one of the fiercest legal challengers of federal environmental rules at the helm of the government arm that oversees them. Pruitt has filed more than a dozen lawsuits against the EPA, at times in collaboration with fossil fuel companies, which he will now be in charge of regulating.  

Pruitt’s confirmation is expected to result in looser, more industry-friendly air and water rules. It could also fundamentally change the structure of the agency. Both supporters and critics believe Pruitt was selected to cut down the EPA, which President Trump has said he wants to “get rid of… in almost every form.”

Conservative groups praised Pruitt’s confirmation, with the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Myron Ebell calling him “a great choice” to lead the agency. 

“He has been charged with fulfilling President Trump’s campaign promises to undo Obama’s massive over-regulation of resource and manufacturing industries,” said Ebell, in a statement. “We are confident that Scott Pruitt is up to the challenge.”

The Senate approved Pruitt’s nomination Friday afternoon in a 52-46 vote, with two Democrats from coal-rich states, Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, voting in favor, and one Republican, Susan Collins of Maine, voting against him.

In an overnight standoff, several Democrats attempted to delay the vote until next Tuesday, when the Oklahoma attorney general’s office is scheduled to release around 3,000 of Pruitt’s emails related to his interactions with the fossil fuel industry — but failed. The emails could reveal potentially disqualifying information on Pruitt, which the ranking Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee, Thomas Carper, said would be “wise” to review. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused the request.

In a rare display of defiance, many current and former EPA employees spoke out against Pruitt in the lead up to today’s vote, urging their Senators to reject him. According to Reuters, EPA staff have been warned that President Trump plans to sign a handful of executive orders intended to “reshape the agency,” as soon as Pruitt is confirmed.

Following the vote, David Cox Sr., national president of the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents more than 9,000 employees at the EPA, pointed out that the agency is smaller today than in 1999, despite an expanded list of responsibilities. “Starving this vital agency of the resources it needs to carry out its important work threatens the health and safety of all Americans,” he said.

“The biologists, scientists, lab technicians, engineers, and other civil servants who work at the EPA must be able to do their jobs without political interference or fear of retribution,” he added. “Ensuring the independence of our career civil servants at EPA and all federal agencies is essential part of our democratic government and something that we will fight to maintain.”

Pruitt’s confirmation effectively puts a nail in the coffin of the Obama Clean Power Plan (CPP) — which many Republicans have railed against and Pruitt is currently suing to dismantle. Former EPA chief Gina McCarthy has said that scrapping EPA climate regulations won’t be easy. But when it comes to the CPP, legal experts say the Trump administration could at the very least delay implementation until the rule effectively dies. 

What the effect will be on the renewables sector is unclear. Some industry insiders believe throwing out the CPP could put a chill on renewable energy investments, while others say scrapping the rule would do little to slow the industry’s momentum.

U.S. investor-owned utilities, some of which supported the CPP, said they will continue to advocate for a “clean and affordable energy future” under Pruitt’s tenure, in a statement issued by the Edison Electric Institute President Tom Kuhn.

The CPP isn’t the only Obama-era regulation at risk. Pruitt’s confirmation could also change wetland rules and put an end to the EPA’s fuel economy standards for cars and trucks. Furthermore, Pruitt could drastically change how the agency collects and uses data. A recently leaked memo states, “Unless major reforms of the agency’s use of science and economics are achieved, EPA will be able to return to its bad old ways as soon as an establishment administration takes office.”

Environmental groups issued swift and strong reactions against Pruitt on Friday.

“Regardless of political view, background or income level, Americans want the government to protect our air, water and climate,” said Andrew Steer, president and CEO of the World Resources Institute, pointing to recent polling. “If Scott Pruitt rolls back these vital protections, the backlash will be fierce. Meanwhile, Americans’ health and economy would suffer.

Steer called for Pruitt to protect the EPA’s commitment to “open and transparent scientific data, which is essential for sound policymaking and maintaining trust with all Americans,” he said.

Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune took a more critical tone, calling Pruitt “the most dangerous EPA Administrator in the history of our country.” He added that the Sierra Club and its 2.7 million members and supporters “will continue to mobilize and resist this corrupt administration’s attacks on public health, clean air, and clean water every step of the way.”

Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, echoed that message. “We’ll use every tool in the kit to stop him from harming our air and water, endangering our communities and surrendering our kids to climate catastrophe,” she said.


Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Editor - at 6:01 am

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Why Wind Turbines Should Talk to Each Other

A wind turbine spinning its blades in a valley in southeast India asks a turbine on a plain in Iowa if it should slow down or speed up its rotation. Sound like the stuff of science fiction?

It’s not, according to GE’s VP of Software Research Colin Parris. GE has been developing software, sensors and networking technology that enable wind turbines to talk to each other, not only within the confines of a particular wind farm, but even across the planet.

Such technology, and others like it, could help boost wind farm capacity, lower costs of operating wind farms, and potentially help wind energy compete more effectively with fossil fuel power. “A machine consulting with another machine…now that could be transformational,” said Parris, in a recent interview.

Much of the success of wind energy around the globe has resulted from larger and lower-cost turbines that can produce more power, combined with increasingly savvy and maturing wind developers and financiers, as well helpful subsidies from governments. However, computing tech can also contribute, adding smart intelligence to machines, helping them operate more efficiently, and alerting developers about needed maintenance.

According to some research, these types of technologies could add a 4 percent to 8 percent increase in annual energy production of a wind farm. That could be a lot on a large wind farm with hundreds of megawatts of capacity.

GE, one of the world’s largest wind turbine makers, has built a number of computing and data-dependent technologies that are working on what some call “wind orthodontics.”

Here are five ways computing technology is boosting wind energy.

Wind energy forecasting: Predicting when and how much the wind will blow is a major issue for power companies and grid operators. Because solar and wind energy are variable, that makes it harder to predict just when these resources will generate energy, compared to natural gas, coal and nuclear plants. If a cloud drifts over a solar field, or the wind suddenly picks up, the energy produced can drop or soar significantly.

In India, the government relies on accurate GE wind forecasts to help determine how much extra power needs to be spun up from coal and natural gas plants to make up for any wind shortfalls, said Parris. If GE forecasts more wind power than actually is generated, the Indian grid might face a blackout. If GE forecasts less wind power than actually occurs, grid operators could be wasting energy and money.

GE isn’t the only company that has invested in energy prediction engines. IBM has its own wind and solar forecasting systems. GE is also looking at doing solar forecasting as well, but currently isn’t offering the tech commercially.

Wind farm optimization: If you have a wind farm of, say, 50 or 100 turbines, the turbines in the front of the pack might access more wind flows, while blocking some of the wind turbines in the back. To overcome this issue, GE connects wind turbines with wireless networks and control devices and uses data and software to adjust the angle and speed of blades and rotors so that the most wind energy can be produced by the turbines collectively.

Called “wake management,” the computing tech can deliver 0.5 percent to 2 percent more annual energy production from wind turbines. While that might sound like a drop in the bucket, at a big farm, it adds up.

According to consultants SgurrEnergy, some wind companies are also using lidar technology to ensure that the plane of a wind turbine’s rotor remains perpendicular to the wind, enabling it to access as much energy as possible.

Wind farm maintenance: When a wind turbine breaks down, it’s a big deal. Turbines are commonly hundreds of feet tall, and when they become inoperable, that sometimes means that a worker has to go to the top and check out what’s wrong. And when the blades of a turbine aren’t turning, electricity isn’t being produced, which means money isn’t being made.

GE has built algorithms based on historical wind turbine activity and real-time wind energy data that can predict when wind turbines need to be maintained and alerts developers to when they could break down. The industry calls it “predictive maintenance.”

The American Wind Energy Association says that in 2011, close to $40 billion worth of wind turbines in the U.S. went out of warranty, meaning the owners of the wind turbines will need to invest in their maintenance directly. Algorithms could help reduce upkeep costs.  

Drone inspections: Drones could play a new role in helping wind developers maintain turbines, and GE has already been experimenting with such technology.

Drones, carrying cameras, can fly up to the rotor and blades and inspect turbines to see if anything is out of place. Those cameras could use computing vision software to detect failures, rust, or corrosion.

Talking wind turbines: There are a lot of reasons why wind turbines might want to talk to each other across a farm, across a state or across the planet.

An older wind farm that’s been generating electricity for years could give advice to a newer, younger farm that’s operating under similar conditions. Or a wind turbine at the front of a pack could let its fellow turbines at the back of the pack know it’s adjusting its blade and rotor angle or speed.

“We have wind turbines talking to each other, and they can ask each other questions about failures, wind direction and security, or about collaborating more effectively,” explained GE’s Parris.

Such communication technology would require the turbines to be networked with wireless connections, and use sensors and software to let other turbines know how they’re operating and how they should operate.


Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Editor - at 6:01 am

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Without Their Own Software, Can Utilities Survive?

Today, large companies often prioritize resources and investment for their core competencies, while everything non-core becomes eligible for outsourcing. Outsourcing makes them more efficient and saves them money over the long term. Ironically, knowing how to outsource has itself become a core competency.

In the 1980s many companies deemed internally managed enterprise software to be core. Oracle and SAP sold big licenses, while companies built internal teams to develop modernized, process-centric implementations. Companies bet that distributed, flexible IT was long-term core.

In the 1990s, software pulled a reversal, as internet-based software started taking down industries, first newspapers, then music and entertainment, then telecommunications.

Open network software eventually started to attack every business, forcing each to decide if internally developed software needed to be core. Banks voted yes, and recognized security software to be just as critical. Insurance, retail, logistics and healthcare all followed the same path. Third-party cloud vendors marketed how they could help with outsourcing software applications, but “core” areas got dedicated internal teams.

The banking industry’s new fear is bitcoin and blockchain software. Tesla is the threat for Toyota, GM and Ford. The big guys recognize that designing and manufacturing a new electric vehicle is nowhere near as daunting as developing a software-based, driverless, perpetually learning, cloud-connected mobility system. Now they’re racing to establish R&D labs in Silicon Valley, hire software engineering teams and develop their own software competencies. What an ironic twist for an industry that has historically outsourced everything.

From our point of view at Groom Energy, we’re asking the question: Are utilities next?

Today’s utilities are not forward thinkers in software.

Regulated electric utilities have long specialized in reliably running a central plant and wire lines connected to a captive set of customers. The business has a conservative, long-term view and public market investors buy into modest, predictable returns, without significant upside or downside. The biggest tensions come after storm outages, when utilities renegotiate for ratepayer funded T&D upgrades. Developing customer facing software hasn’t been urgent or core.

But the energy services market has become a customer-centric world.

A few years ago, Opower launched a business by taking a utility’s own customer usage info, building a bar chart comparing a homeowner’s usage to the next-door neighbor, then selling it back to the utility for inclusion in their customer’s monthly bill. The behavior tool was novel. But anyone with a software background wondered why utilities couldn’t figure out how to use their own customer data to develop this simple customer analytics tool.

The smart meter wave was supposed to help utilities get closer to their customers’ needs.

Yet thus far, the benefits have more been for reducing physical metering costs vs. the electronic capture of customer usage data. Itron and Silver Spring are busy developing rollouts with their outsourced utility managed service offerings. Meanwhile, like the rest of corporate America, the utility’s network is being attacked (literally) and these network security challenges are not something they can easily outsource.

J.D. Power’s annual customer satisfaction survey confirms that utilities have lagging customer satisfaction levels. Even the airline industry outperforms virtually all utility providers.

For energy services, consumers and businesses want their energy demand managed intelligently, with grid requirements integrated into the software that runs their homes or buildings. Their own grids can now include solar, wind or CHP, along with storage, a growth market where utilities are partnering principally to respond to the regulator’s mandate. Customers need an integrated electronic solution, and although the utility is the logical service provider to deliver it, its not clear they can do it without a heavy investment in software.

So utilities are at a crossroads to decide if, and where, they should make software investments. And their decisions now will have long-term implications.

The industry’s software skills vacuum is the reason companies like Apple see opportunity and are considering entering the market. Even regulators see the problem and are willing to fund utilities to develop their own cloud-based software skills. If regulators see an innovation gap, you have to wonder if it’s a little too late.

Utilities could still invest to develop integrated virtual energy management solutions that leverage their existing customer relationships and brand names.

But it’s also possible that energy management will be conducted through Amazon Prime or iTunes, while regulated utilities’ core will just be running transmission and distribution with fleets of maintenance trucks.

You can bet a 2025 Harvard Business School case study will detail how it plays out.


Jon Guerster is the CEO of Groom Energy Solutions.


Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Editor - at 6:01 am

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California Farmers Use Floodwater to Replenish Aquifers

As dam managers were draining water from a Northern Californian reservoir this week to avert what could have been one of the worst flood disasters in the state’s history, Southern California farmer Don Cameron was doing something different with the watery winter excess.

Using a network of levees and irrigation gates, Cameron inundated the orchards, vineyards and vegetable and alfalfa fields of Terranova Ranch, a farm in Fresno County that he manages, using the power of gravity to drive water back into an ailing underground aquifer.

A vineyard deliberatedly flooded this week at Terranova Ranch.
Credit: Don Cameron/Terranova Ranch

Similar approaches are being considered and tested statewide as California confronts the impacts of aging infrastructure, rising temperatures and decades of unsustainable use of water from wells. Groundwater recharging can reduce flood risks, boost water storage and alleviate the sinking of lands that often follows heavy groundwater pumping.

“Our primary source of water is groundwater,” Cameron said. “We have a reservoir under our farm that needs to be replenished, and it’s a lot more easy to do that than try to build above-ground structures.”


Nearly 200,000 Californians were evacuated this week after heavy winter rains following years of drought nearly overtopped the Oroville Dam, which is the tallest in the state. Two emergency spillways used to flush excess water from the reservoir were damaged.

“The Oroville crisis certainly does seem like a call to work with nature, rather than against her, by expanding groundwater storage as opposed to big new dams,” said Kate Poole, a leader of the nonprofit Natural Resources Defense Council’s water program. “There are many fewer environmental problems associated with groundwater storage.”

Rising temperatures are projected to cause California’s powerful winter storms to dump more rain and less snow, and to hasten the melting of snowpacks, requiring more water to be captured in winter and spring for use in the warmer months.

Water is released from the Lake Oroville Dam after an evacuation was ordered downstream from the dam in Oroville, Calif.
Credit: REUTERS/Jim Urquhart

Efforts to build or expand above-ground water reservoirs are hampered by their heavy environmental impacts. Reservoirs inundate valley ecosystems, release heat-trapping methane and threaten downstream communities with flood disasters if the dam wall fails.

California voters in 2014 approved $2.7 billion in spending to boost water storage, part of a $7.5 billion water bond. Also in 2014, state lawmakers passed bills requiring agencies to manage groundwater more sustainably.

Stanford University’s Water in the West program estimated the $2.7 billion could be used to boost underground water storage in California by nearly 3 trillion gallons. That was six times the amount of storage that could be gained if the money was used instead to build and expand above-ground reservoirs.

Sometimes pumps are used to drive waters from the surface down into aquifers, but oftentimes gravity alone does the trick, with water percolating quickly below the surface after it’s deliberately pooled over quick-draining soils and rocks.

Although California’s farming regions are already strewn with levees, pumps and other infrastructure used to corral and move water, there are limits to how existing infrastructure could be used to boost groundwater storage.

“Irrigation infrastructure was designed to move smaller amounts of water,” said Helen Dahlke, a hydrologist at University of California, Davis. “Most infrastructure doesn’t have the capacity to move large water amounts, such as we have during storm or flood flows.”

Terranova Ranch plans to expand its groundwater-storage efforts, with construction of new infrastructure planned by next summer. Analysis of its groundwater storage efforts five years ago, which was the last time California endured widespread flooding, showed the water was stored at a tiny fraction of the cost of new dam building.

Similar planning is underway elsewhere. Kern County-based Semitropic Water Storage District, which provides water to cities and farms, plans to publish an environmental review this summer detailing its plans for capturing flood waters by corralling and funneling them through the earth into a natural aquifer.

“We’re trying to identify ways to augment our water supply,” general manager Jason Gianquinto said. “So here’s an opportunity to capture floodwater.”



Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Editor - at 6:01 am

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100 Days of Climate: Week 5

Addressing climate change using sound science is crucial not just for the U.S., but for the world. Unfortunately, that appears unlikely over the next four years under the Trump administration, which has shown signs of being apathetic if not outright hostile to climate science and science-based policies to rein in carbon pollution.

Trump has promised to rid the country of Obama’s climate policies while simultaneously propping up coal and oil, the two biggest energy sources of carbon pollution. That’s despite the fact that climate science indicates now is the time when more urgent action is needed to address climate change.

With an anti-climate agenda likely in Trump’s first 100 days, Climate Central is going  to underscore the value of science and rational approaches to policy making over that span. We’ll be tweeting facts, stories and videos that provide key scientific context of the choices humanity faces and what policy actions (or inactions) mean. We’ll be chronicling them all right here, so check back every day to see what science tells us about our warming world and what we should be doing about it.

Feb. 17-Feb. 23

Day 29, Feb. 17: Here’s how climate change may alter “critical” atmospheric rivers #climate100    

Feb. 10-Feb. 16

Before and after satellite imagery show an iceberg breaking off the calving front of the Pine Island Glacier.
Credit: NASA Earth Observatory

Day 22, Feb. 10: Our warming world could lead to individual storms that produce heavier snow #climate100    
Day 23, Feb. 11: The Dakota Access pipeline has been greenlighted. Here’s what that means for carbon emissions    
Day 24, Feb. 12: NOAA lets the public create climate visuals with the click of a button #climate100    
Day 25, Feb. 13: The planet is losing sea ice. This winter is a dramatic sign of that trend #climate100    
Day 26, Feb. 14: The U.S. is more than 1/3 of the way toward meeting its commitment to the Paris Agreement    
Day 27, Feb. 15: Satellites reveal how our world is changing. Here’s what they just saw in Antarctica #climate100    
Day 28, Feb. 16: January 2017 continued the trend of planetary heat #climate100    

Feb. 3-Feb. 9

Day 15, Feb. 3: The language on EPA climate pages is starting to change (and disappear in some cases) #climate100    
Day 16, Feb. 4: These maps show what’s at risk along the U.S. coast from sea level rise  #climate100    
Day 17, Feb. 5: January was the 27th consecutive month the U.S. set more high temp records than low temp records #climate100    
Day 18, Feb. 6: Our infrastructure will get more vulnerable as extreme heat events increase #climate100    
Day 19, Feb. 7: Unprecedented Arctic warmth is an example of how carbon pollution is reshaping the planet    
Day 20, Feb. 8: Snow cover in North America is on the decline in part due to climate change #climate100  
Day 21, Feb. 9: Coastal cities could flood three times a week by 2045 as seas rise #climate100  

Jan. 27-Feb. 2

Credit: NOAA

Day 8, Jan. 27: The group @500womensci brought together women researchers advocating for equality #climate100    
Day 9, Jan. 28: New research shows we’re even closer to the 1.5°C warming threshold #climate100    
Day 10, Jan. 29: This new NOAA satellite will dramatically improve weather forecasts #climate100    
Day 11, Jan. 30: Syria’s worst drought in 900 years helped spark a refugee crisis #climate100    
Day 12, Jan. 31: One of the nation’s biggest climate polluting power plants could close this year #climate100    
Day 13, Feb. 1: Warming winters pose serious economic consequences in states reliant on winter tourism #climate100    
Day 14, Feb. 2: Limiting methane emissions, like from natural gas pipes, is key to curbing climate change #climate100    

Jan. 20-26

Credit: Anthony Quintano/flickr

Day 1, Jan. 20: Data is the bedrock for all we know about climate change. Here’s why we need to save it #climate100    
Day 2, Jan. 21: Women are the true face of climate change #climate100 #womensmarch    
Day 3, Jan. 22: Outbreaks with more tornadoes are becoming more extreme #climate100    
Day 4, Jan. 23: NASA & NOAA have declared 2016 to be the hottest year in 137 years of record keeping #climate100    
Day 5, Jan. 24: Trump has frozen EPA funds at a time when climate research is more important than ever #climate100    
Day 6, Jan. 25: The EPA has reportedly been told to kill their climate change webpage via @Reuters #climate100    
Day 7, Jan. 26: Scientists have proposed a #ScienceMarch to advocate for evidence-based policies #climate100    

Climate Central’s science programs (hover to learn more): 


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Thai government approves coal plant in popular tourist area

A government committee has approved construction of an 800 MW coal power plant near pristine beaches on the Andaman Sea, Thailand’s prime minister said Friday


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Senate confirms Scott Pruitt as EPA administrator

The vote was 52-46 as Republican leaders used their party’s narrow Senate majority to push Pruitt’s confirmation despite calls from Democrats to delay the vote until requested emails are released next week


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Pennsylvania correlates natural gas fracking with earthquakes

Fracking, a method to extract gas or oil from underground shale rock, has been tied to earthquakes in neighboring Ohio and other states, but never before in Pennsylvania


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