California staves off more power outages amid heat wave

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Children cool off in a park Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, in Fountain Valley, Calif. The state is in a days-long heat wave that has stressed the electrical system and resulted in rolling blackouts over two nights last weekend. Photo: Jae C. Hong, AP / Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.


SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — California staved off another round of rolling blackouts as a searing heat wave strained its electrical grid, but authorities warned of a continuing threat Wednesday.

Grid managers again called for voluntary energy conservation during afternoon and evening hours to try to avoid having to order utilities to cut power to selected areas, which happened twice last week but has been narrowly avoided since then.

After warning Tuesday that as many as 2 million homes and businesses might be subject to rotating blackouts of an hour or more, the California Independent System Operator nonprofit organization that oversees the state power grid canceled its emergency declaration Tuesday night.
“That’s a wrap. You did it, California consumers,” the system operator tweeted, adding: “Thank you for keeping the electricity flowing.”
At a cooling center in Sacramento, Gov. Gavin Newsom praised industries, businesses and residents for driving down energy usage but warned the state was still in the midst of a “critical 48-hour period.”

“We’re doing everything in our power to understand the root causes of this,” said Newsom, who has ordered an investigation into outages that occurred on Friday and Saturday.

Outages happened in some Los Angeles neighborhoods due to overloaded distribution equipment, the city Department of Water and Power said. About 6,600 of its 1.5 million customers remained without power around sunrise.

The extreme heat was being generated by a strong ridge of high pressure over the western U.S., which also produced an onslaught of thunderstorms and lightning that ignited many of the wildfires burning in California.

Thousands of people were under evacuation orders or warnings as blazes engulfed rural and forest lands. Newsom declared a state of emergency because of the fires, easing the way to secure federal grants and out-of-state firefighting help.

High temperatures were expected to continue through the week, although forecasts called for the high pressure to gradually weaken, the National Weather Service said.

In addition to heat, an influx of monsoonal storm flow unleashed powerful downpours in the inland areas of Southern California.

Meanwhile, the wildfires spewed huge columns of smoke and made for unhealthy air, further adding to the misery especially in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

Associated Press writers John Antczak and Christopher Weber in Los Angeles, Martha Mendoza in Santa Cruz and Kathleen Ronayne in Sacramento contributed to this report.

New Report Praises Solar Progress

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Government agencies can be pessimistic. For example, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) projected last year that coal’s share of the electricity generation mix would drop modestly from 28 percent to 22 percent by 2040. Meanwhile, the International Energy Agency projects that carbon emissions will continue to grow until 2040 and beyond as the age of fossil fuels appears “far from over.”

A new report by Bloomberg released in mid-June sees things a bit differently, however.

The Bloomberg report suggests that solar power will push coal and even natural gas powerplants out of business sooner than expected. Electricity from photovoltaic panels costs almost a quarter of what it did in 2009, and Bloomberg projects it will fall another 66 percent by 2040. Solar panels are already cheaper than new coal plants in the U.S. and Germany, and Bloomberg is projecting that solar will undercut coal in places like China and India in the next few years. The report projects that 369 gigawatts of coal projects that are already in the works will wind up being cancelled. Instead of a minor reduction in coal’s market share projected by the EIA, Bloomberg sees coal’s capacity being cut in half by 2040. In Europe, coal’s capacity will fall 87 percent, putting it on the brink of extinction.

For so long, wind and solar were trivial components of the country’s electricity mix. Together they generated about 1 percent of the country’s electricity in 2007, and solar in particular barely made a blip until 2012. Now they are pushing past 10 percent. Bloomberg says they will make up half the nation’s power by 2040. Wind and solar will also dominate future investments, as prices, changing preferences, and regulatory hurdles will slow down fossil fuel spending. Government projections have routinely underestimated the ongoing boom in wind and solar power, so hopefully they are wrong again.

Greenwave Energy recognizes the changing energy landscape in California and beyond, and offers its customers products that make a difference in our fight against climate change. From carbon offset natural gas to Renewable Energy Certificates and a soon-ready rooftop solar option, Greenwave Energy shares your passion for a cleaner environment.

Renewabes Boom in Unexpected Places

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According to public polling, not to mention electoral results, Kansas is one of the most conservative states in the country. Yet Kansas has had an odd relationship with green energy. The state passed a renewable portfolio standard in 2009 that said the state should use 20 percent renewable electricity by 2020. The law was passed under a Democratic governor, Kathleen Sebelius. That law was scrapped in 2014 after the Tea Party wave swept Republicans into power, but by then it was already becoming irrelevant. The conservatives in power by that time lamented government interference in the market, but with or without the government, renewables have continued to grow.

The New York Times pointed out on June 6 that Kansas was flirting with getting more than 30 percent of its electricity from wind, and it may be the first state in the county to hit 50 percent renewables. In fact, the leading five states for wind generation as a percentage of total electricity are all conservative: Iowa, Kansas, South Dakota, Oklahoma, and North Dakota. Texas, also a very conservative state (and perhaps the oil capital of the world), generates the most wind power in absolute terms.

Conservatives in these states rarely tout wind’s environmental benefits. Instead, they talk about green electricity as an economic engine that provides a source of electricity whose price does not fluctuate with fuel prices. Maybe, some environmentalists say, the way to more growth in green energy is a focus on job creation. Green energy is booming, particularly wind, but it is under threat from a federal government that is moving away from supporting renewables. One example of a new approach is California setting up a power line link to Wyoming so that abundant wind energy can be sent from that conservative state (making it money) to the liberal state (that needs to meet renewable goals).

At Greenwave Energy, we believe that green energy initiatives should be a non-partisan issue. Benefits include energy independence, American jobs and a cleaner planet. Thanks to our customers in California who share our vision. By choosing carbon-offset natural gas and Renewable Energy Certificates, they’re turning their homes into zero-emission vehicles!

California Solar Sets New Record

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The boom in solar electricity generation in California caused the state to hit two major milestones in March. First, California renewable energy hit a record for the state by serving 56.7% of all California’s electricity demand at 11:25 a.m. on Thursday, March 23. About half that demand was served by solar, with wind picking up most the rest along with a small contribution from hydro, biogas, biomass, and geothermal power.

Using that much renewable electricity has typically been seen as a challenge for grid operators. China, for example, has recently had to curtail (waste) large amounts of wind electricity it could not use. California is now entering that territory as well. The U.S. Department of Energy wants America’s grids to be able to handle 100% renewables at least part of the time, and it looks like California may be the testing bed for some of the necessary technology.

Which leads to California’s other major milestone, it saw some negative wholesale electricity prices in March. Specifically, on March 11, 40% of the net grid power produced from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. was from utility-scale solar. That led to wholesale prices dropping below zero for a short period of time, even though consumers continued to see their prices stay above national averages. The U.S. Energy Information Administration explained that negative prices are usually caused when generators with high shut-down or restart costs must compete with other generators to avoid operating below minimum equipment ratings. In other words, they need somebody to buy their electricity at midday so they can keep running until the sun goes down.

In all, solar capacity in California has grown from 1 gigawatt in 2007 to 14 gigawatts at the end of 2016. That is a dramatic increase that may not slow down anytime soon.

Greenwave Energy embraces all forms of renewable energy, bringing new options to California residents. We currently offer carbon offset natural gas, Renewable Energy Certificates, and will soon be offering affordable rooftop solar installations.

Green Groups Celebrate Coal’s Bad Year

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A report released at the end of March shows that coal had a painful 2016, while renewables and natural gas are on the rise. The report, titled Boom and Bust 2017, was put out by team of environmental groups including CoalSwarm, Sierra Club, and Greenpeace. They have examined worldwide coal-generation capacity, plus planned capacity, and found that coal use has been reduced enough to make it feasible for the climate to warm less than 2 degrees Celsius from preindustrial levels, which is a key benchmark for the environmental community.

The report says that coal generation capacity experienced an unprecedented expansion in the years leading up to 2016, but then China and India led a dramatic turnaround. China’s central government put on hold more than 300 gigawatts of projects, including 55 gigawatts worth of projects that were already under construction. This policy was implemented largely because existing plants were being underutilized, but concerns about smog and desire to comply with international climate agreements also played a role.

India also slowed down development of coal projects, largely because it ran into trouble securing financing. India and China accounted for most of the world’s growth in coal power, so their reductions led to major reductions worldwide. This includes a 48 percent drop in world-wide coal pre-construction activity, 62 percent fewer construction starts, and a 19 percent reduction in ongoing construction. Meanwhile, retirements of existing plants are becoming more common in the U.S. and Europe.

There is some debate about what this all means. Environmentalists say it is evidence of the inevitable switch away from coal to renewables, but that is not entirely clear. Others would say it is merely a sign that China’s electricity demand has stopped growing rapidly, while India has also experienced some economic turbulence. Either way, it is an important trend worth watching.

Greenwave Energy provides environmentally-sustainable energy solutions for California residents. We keep an eye on national policy and industry trends to help put our mission in context and provide a resource for our customers.

Energy Star Program Sits In the Budget Crosshairs

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In 1992, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency created a new voluntary program called Energy Star to help businesses and individuals save money and help the environment through energy efficiency. At the heart of the program is a voluntary labeling system that is designed to help consumers identify and understand the benefits of energy-efficient products. The labels now appear on major appliances, office equipment, lighting, home electronics, and buildings. The EPA says the system has saved $24 billion since 2012.

President Trump’s first budget proposal would eliminate the program entirely. Most Presidents issue a “skinny budget” their first year, which means the budget has little in the way of explanation because most of the new President’s staff has not been hired yet. For that reason, there is little explanation for why the President wants to eliminate this popular program. The budget just states that it will eliminate more than 50 EPA programs that it says are lower priority, poorly performing, duplicative, or the responsibility of state and local governments. One of these 50 programs slated for a shutdown is Energy Star.

Energy Star has garnered some criticism over the years, particularly because it relies on self-certification from manufacturers. Independent testing does not always match the energy savings claimed by manufacturers. The program has not had any prominent voices calling for it to end, however. Some have speculated that President Trump’s administration views the program as an unnecessary climate regulation. It may also be targeted as something the Trump administration believes private industry can handle themselves. No matter the reason, it is important to keep in mind that a President’s budget is just a proposal. Ultimately, Congress will decide whether the program is funded in the future and for now there is no sign that the program is truly facing an imminent demise.

Greenwave Energy provides environmentally-sustainable energy solutions for California residents. We keep an eye on national policy and industry trends to help put our mission in context and provide a resource for our customers.

Reducing Usage Lowers Energy Costs

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There’s more to household energy costs than the price of electricity or gas. How much energy we waste in our homes contributes to the total cost, so tightening up means more money in our pockets.

Weatherstripping is a fine example of saving money by spending a little more in the first place. Weatherstripping is the material around doors, windows and other openings in a home that keeps inside air inside and keeps the elements out. The U.S. Department of Energy points out that proper weatherstripping on an older house can save more 20% on heating and cooling bills!

In some older homes, a simple visual inspection will show where weatherstripping is needed. For best results, though, homeowners should hire a technician to conduct a blower test, where air is sucked out of a home to help identify leaky areas.

It is critical to consider the tradeoffs of each type of weatherstripping for a particular job. Felt strips, for example, are cheap and easy to install. But they also wear out quickly and are not particularly effective in the first place. Interlocking metal channels are perhaps the best seal possible around the edge of a door, but they are very expensive and really cannot be installed by a nonprofessional. Sponge rubber tubes that self stick along the edges of a door are somewhere in the middle, as they are fairly costly and tricky to install, but they work well and can be done by the weekend warrior.

Ventilation is another factor to consider when dramatically improving your home’s weatherstripping. Many older homes rely on the natural flow of air through cracks in the wall to keep the indoor air fresh. Tightly-sealed homes do not have that luxury, so they must include ventilation systems that pump fresh air in and control moisture. The best ventilation system balance air coming in and air going out, while also recovering heat in the exhaust air so that it is not wasted.

Relying on renewable energy is much easier in an efficient home. Once you get your energy usage under control, it is very affordable to switch to 100% renewable. Greenwave Energy can help you offset your usage with Renewable Energy Credits and soon we will offer home-based solar systems, as well!

NFL Increases Reliance on Solar Power

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We’ve all been hearing about the “arrival” of solar power for a long time. Maybe when it intersects with America’s favorite sport, we can say it’s finally happened.

Interesting fact: The most-watched television program of all time was held in a solar-powered venue. That was last year’s Super Bowl held in the new Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California.

The San Francisco 49ers’ venue was completed in 2014 and was one of the first NFL stadiums to incorporate solar power into its design. Levi’s has 1,186 high-efficiency solar panels. Most are installed over three “energy bridges” that give fans a shaded walkway between the parking lots and the stadium. The remaining panels are installed over a “solar terrace” where season ticket holders can enjoy a shaded premium club with bar service, a lounge, and a green roof garden.

These panels can generate up to 375 kilowatts of electricity at a time, and enough over the course of the year to fully supply the electricity needed for every 49ers home game in a season.

The solar panels helped the stadium became the first gold “LEED” certified in the NFL, but teams across the country are jumping on the renewable power bandwagon. NRG Energy, the company that installed the system in Levi’s Stadium, has also installed renewable systems in several other NFL venues: FedEx Field in Washington, D.C.; Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts; Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia; MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey; and NRG Park in Houston.

Coming in 2017, Greenwave Energy customers will have the chance to purchase their own solar system and follow their favorite team into renewable electricity. In the meantime, check out our Renewable Energy Certificate program, which allows customers to pay for renewable power to go into the grid, even if the electricity they use is coming from their local utility. It allows you to ensure that your electricity demand is 100% renewable. Learn more here, and stay tuned for our solar program coming soon!

Apple Leads with Green Energy Commitment

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More and more companies are making renewable energy pledges, but they are not all necessarily installing their own solar panels. The computer giant Apple, for example, recently announced that it plans to utilize “100 percent renewable energy” in the near future. It is not so easy to go and purchase that amount of renewable electricity, however, even if you are flush with cash like Apple. The company actually founded its own utility company, Apple Energy LLC, which was then designated as a wholesale electricity seller. Apple Energy sells electricity pretty much just to Apple computer.

Many of Apple’s efforts are being led by Lisa Jackson, who was the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under President Obama. She is now Apple’s Vice President for Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives. Jackson says the company is actually expecting to save money by producing its own electricity, primarily through solar generated in California to serve Apple’s massive corporate headquarters in Cupertino, California.

So what can a company or a consumer do if it wants to use more renewables and does not have a pile of cash to found its own utility company? Renewable Energy Certificates may be the answer. Apple is actually part of a group called RE100, which is a global initiative of leading businesses that have pledged to use 100% renewable energy. Most companies in the RE100, including Apple up until recently, have relied heavily on purchasing certificates showing that the company has paid for the equivalent of enough renewable power to meet its needs. In other words, the company may use electricity generated by the local utility’s mix of renewable and fossil fuel, but it is paying for just the renewable portion.

Renewable energy certificates, or RECs, have been credited with sharply driving up the amount of renewable power being used around the world. If you want to learn more about using RECs to help the planet, Greenwave Energy can help.

Merger Joins Leading Green Tech Companies

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If billionaire Elon Musk has his way, your car and your house will soon become very good friends. The electric car developer was finally able to get permission to merge his two companies, Tesla and SolarCity, on November 17. He owns a little more than 20% of each company, and when they combine he will have what he calls a “one stop shop” for anyone seeking to cut ties with fossil fuels.

Shareholders voted to approve Tesla’s plan to buy SolarCity, paving the way for Musk to bring his two sustainable energy businesses together under the same solar-paneled roof. The $2 billion deal created some controversy, as neither company has come close to consistent profitability. Critics also argue that the companies are far too large to continue to be run by essentially Mr. Musk and some of his friends. But the merger was ultimately was approved by the vast majority of Tesla shareholders. A lot could still go wrong, though, as Tesla will now face the challenge of combining its operations with SolarCity’s thousands of employees and arguably completely different business.

Mr. Musk does not seem to think he is combining two completely different businesses. He sees one integrated product line. Tesla sells a product called Powerwall, which is a battery pack that is installed on the wall of your home. The Powerwall costs about $6,500 and can power a two-bedroom home for a full day. Tesla also sells the world’s top selling line of electric cars. Mr. Musk just sees the SolarCity panels as a way to collect sunlight to charge up the Tesla batteries in cars and homes.

SolarCity is bringing both its panels and its innovative financing option to the table. SolarCity will sell an installation for cash, but its other payment options do not require any money down. SolarCity will loan customers the money to install the panel or SolarCity can retain ownership. If SolarCity owns the panels, it will either lease them to customers or basically allow customers to purchase the electricity through a “power purchase agreement.” The cash-out-of-pocket payments are all supposed to be in the ballpark of a traditional utility bill.

Of course, not everybody has the ability to install solar panels on their roof. Renewable Energy Certificates provide these customers with a way to get into the game. Customers essentially get a coupon telling them that the amount of electricity they are buying off the grid is being offset by renewable energy elsewhere in the system. Learn more about Greenwave RECs here.