Summer Power Stayed on Despite Drought, Fires, Closed Nuke

Power lines in Palo Alto | Photo: Daniel Hoherd/Flickr/Creative Commons License

The agency that operates California's power grid is reporting that this past summer saw no major outages in the state despite frequent heat waves that boosted power consumption during peak periods.

The hot summer was the third in which the state has been deprived of power from the shuttered San Onofre nuclear power plant, leaving Southern California with about 2,200 fewer megawatts of power generating capacity. According to the California Independent System Operators (CaISO), which operates the power grid in most of California and a portion of southern Nevada, California's record drought cut output from the state's hydroelectric plants by another 1,628 megawatts.

But despite those shortfalls and wildfires that threatened transmission lines near San Diego, California stayed powered up this summer -- and much of the credit goes to the state's increased renewable energy capacity, which set output records this summer.

California's Carbon Trading Program May Give You Money Soon

Millions of California households will get a little help on their electric bills this fall. | Photo: hubgoat/Flickr/Creative Commons License

California households who get their electricity from the state's privately owned utilities will be getting a bit of a present in their electric bills this fall, thanks to the state's greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program.

Most California residents' electric bills will be credited an average of $35 in October or November through the state's Climate Credit program. The money comes from emissions permits purchased by the state's largest emitters of greenhouse gases.

That $35 average credit varies by your utility, with some companies' customers getting more and some less. Southern California Edison residential customers will receive $40 per household, while San Diego Gas & Electric clients will receive just under $37. The objective is to provide Californians with a bit of cash they can use to invest in energy-efficiency such as LED light bulbs, further cutting the state's greenhouse gas footprint.

California's Huge Renewable Energy Plan is Bad for Democracy

A draft plan released last month that would manage millions of acres of the California desert for renewable energy development is profoundly anti-democratic.

The Draft Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan, or DRECP, made public in late September after two years of delay, would streamline development of wind, solar, and geothermal energy resources on about two million acres of the California desert -- 3,125 square miles, an area more than six times the size of Los Angeles. The plan would also designate close to five million acres as conservation areas to be managed for protection of a number of so-called "covered species."

DRECP's scope is gigantic, in other words, and that's a problem. An attempt to plan for both the development and conservation of most of the California desert, the DRECP is so complex and so huge that substantive public comment on the plan would be nearly impossible even if the public had a far longer deadline for comments than early January. And that obstacle to full public comment is bad for democracy.

Massive Solar Power Project for California Desert Scrapped

The proposed Palen Solar Electric Generating System | Photo: Palen Solar Holdings

The consortium of solar companies seeking to build a 500-megawatt solar power tower project in Riverside County has formally withdrawn the project's application from consideration by the California Energy Commission.

The Palen Solar Electric Generating System had just received tentative approval from the Commission this month to build one of two planned 750-foot solar power towers in the eastern Chuckwalla Valley.

But on Friday afternoon, project owner Palen Solar Holdings formally withdrew its petition on behalf of the project, which likely means the project is dead -- at least for the foreseeable future.

No! Wrong Way! U.S. Carbon Emissions Rising Again

Well here's some news to ruin your weekend: the federal government's chief energy analysts say that despite a massive national investment in renewable energy, U.S. greenhouse gas emissions are climbing again.

According to the latest Monthly Energy Review put out by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the U.S. dumped significantly more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere in the first half of 2014 than it did in the same period over the previous two years. That's a startling reversal of a decline in emissions from 2010-2012, and an indication that we really need to step up our game on the quickest, most cost-effective ways of reducing our emissions: distributed solar and energy efficiency.

"The growth in U.S. CO2 emissions is clear wake-up call that much more needs to be done to accelerate the growth of renewable energy sources, as well as improved energy efficiency, if the nation is to successfully address climate change," said Ken Bossong, executive director of the SUN DAY Campaign, which sent out a press release on the reported increase.

Nation's Largest Battery Storage Project Charges Forward in Kern County

Lithium-ion batteries | Photo: Argonne National Laboratory/Flickr/Creative Commons License

The largest battery-based grid power storage system in North America just went online in Kern County.

With a storage capacity of 32 megawatt-hours, enough to power a typical American home for about 15 months, Southern California Edison's Tehachapi Energy Storage Project is intended to allow grid operators to store surplus power from nearby fields of wind turbines in the Tehachapi Wind Resource Area.

The storage project is made up of more than 600,000 lithium ion battery cells similar to those used in electric cars, housed at Edison's Monolith Substation east of Tehachapi.

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