14,000 forced from homes by flooding in San Jose

February 23, 2017 by  
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A series of heavy rainstorms has caused severe flooding near San Jose, California, forcing a mandatory evacuation of at least 14,000 residents overnight . About 250 of those people had to be rescued via boat by emergency crews. The flooding affected Coyote Creek and the spillway of the Anderson Reservoir, which was filled to capacity by the recent rain. An additional 22,000 have not been ordered to evacuate yet, but have been encouraged to leave their homes. Some of those affected have complained that they received no advance notice that they needed to evacuate until firefighters showed up, delivering notifications door-to-door, leaving them little time to prepare. San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo has pledged to investigate the issue. Floodwaters have begun to recede, however, the danger may not have passed. Further rain is forecast for this weekend, but the break in the rain should allow authorities time to assess the current damage. Water levels in Coyote Creek are already at a 100 year peak, so any additional rain could be dangerous. Related: California storms could herald the end of punishing historic drought After a lengthy drought, heavy storms have pummeled much of California this year, causing mudslides and flooding. Earlier in the month, nearly 200,000 people were evacuated near the Oroville dam due to fears it might overflow. Via NPR Images via AJ+

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14,000 forced from homes by flooding in San Jose

California city on its way to becoming the first Zero Net Energy city in the U.S.

February 19, 2017 by  
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The city of Lancaster, California is one step closer to becoming a Zero Net Energy city – the very first in the U.S. The proposed ordinance, recently moved forward by the city council, will require all new homes to be equipped with solar panels or to take other steps toward energy mitigation. The end goal is to create a city with a truly sustainable future. “This is a great stride in Lancaster’s journey to become a Zero Net City,” said Mayor R. Rex Parris in a statement. “The Zero Net Energy Home Ordinance expands upon Lancaster’s residential solar ordinance so that new homes built in Lancaster now will not only be environmentally friendly, but have a zero net impact on our environment, while reducing energy costs for the homeowners.” Related: Lancaster, California to require all new homes to have solar panels The ZNE ordinance requires all new homes built in the year 2017 and beyond to choose one of three options for energy use: install photovoltaic panels to support two watts of energy for each square foot, pay mitigation fees that will result in a discount on the energy generation rate section of their bill, or select a combination of both options. The required feasibility study for the ordinance is already taking place, which is needed before receiving approval from the California Energy Commission . These processes are expected to be complete by the end of the year. Images via  Wikimedia

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California city on its way to becoming the first Zero Net Energy city in the U.S.

The US solar market grew by a record-breaking 95% last year

February 16, 2017 by  
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The United States solar market grew an astounding 95 percent in 2016, installing an extraordinary 14.5 gigawatts of new solar capacity, according to the annual Solar Market Insight Report (SMI) from GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). For the first time in history, solar ranked as the number one source of new electric generating capacity in the US, accounting for 39 percent of new capacity additions across all fuel types in 2016. “What these numbers tell you is that the solar industry is a force to be reckoned with,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, SEIA’s president and CEO. “Solar’s economically winning hand is generating strong growth across all market segments nationwide, leading to more than 260,000 Americans now employed in solar.” Related: Solar power now provides twice as many jobs as coal in U.S. A record 22 states each added more than 100 megawatts of solar, with California topping the list for cumulative solar capacity at 18,304 MW. There are now more than 1.3 million solar PV installations in the US, with a cumulative capacity of 42.3 GW. Wind energy also enjoyed a great year, accounting for 26 percent of all new electric generating capacity. Most of the new solar capacity was in utility-scale solar, which grew 145 percent from 2015. For the first time since 2011, the non-residential market outpaced residential solar installations — community solar added a record of more than 200 MW, led by Minnesota and Massachusetts; and rate design and net energy metering resulted in the development of new non-residential solar projects, particularly in California. + US Solar Market Insight Via CleanTechnica Images via Wikimedia and SEIA

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The US solar market grew by a record-breaking 95% last year

Damaged Oroville spillway in California prompts mass evacuations

February 13, 2017 by  
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Winter storms continue to drench California , and over the weekend people living near Oroville in Northern California faced a crisis. After officials noticed a hole in the emergency spillway at the United States’ tallest dam , around 180,000 residents were ordered to evacuate , some given just one hour to flee their homes. Flooding in the area had been a threat for around a week as the reservoir behind Oroville Dam reached capacity. When the main spillway started eroding, officials opened an emergency spillway that’s never been used since the dam was built in the 1960’s. But then officials noticed the hole, and ordered evacuations on Sunday. Some residents had just one hour’s notice before officials feared the auxiliary spillway could fail, which could precipitate “an uncontrolled release of flood waters from Lake Oroville,” according to the National Weather Service . Related: Record winter storm pounds California Late Sunday reservoir water levels finally lowered, providing a bit of a respite. But officials said evacuations should continue, and conditions are still perilous. Governor Jerry Brown proclaimed a state of emergency on Sunday for three counties , saying in a statement, “I’ve been in close contact with emergency personnel managing the situation in Oroville throughout the weekend and it’s clear the circumstances are complex and rapidly changing.” During the night evacuation shelters were still being outfitted with blankets and beds, according to NPR. Gizmodo reports residents of Oroville, Wheatland, Marysville, Plumas Lake, Hallwood, and Olivehurst were told to evacuate. According to the Los Angeles Times, if the emergency spillway failed, large amounts of water could gush into the Feather River, which travels through downtown Oroville. Flooding and levee failures would likely follow in the wake of a spillway failure for miles south of the Oroville Dam. Many communities could be flooded if that were to happen. Via NPR , the Los Angeles Times , and Gizmodo Images via California Department of Water Resources Facebook and Wikimedia Commons

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This 7-year-old from Maryland might be the next Einstein

February 6, 2017 by  
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Romanieo Golphin, Jr. may only be 7, but already there are whispers that he could be the Albert Einstein of his generation. The home-schooled boy from Silver Spring, Maryland, showed signs of precociousness at age 2, when he was able to tackle questions about particle physics between spoonfuls of Cheerios. Although Romanieo digs art and music and loves LEGO and candy, his real passions lie with science, a subject where he gets to articulate “big words” like “cyclohexanecarboxylic acid” that would trip the tongues of most grownups. “They’re not a mouthful for me,” he told the Washington Post . People started to take notice. Steven Goldfarb, an experimental physicist at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), which runs the Large Hadron Collider, invited the pint-size prodigy and his family to tour the facilities in Switzerland, whereupon he dubbed Romanieo a CERN “ambassador” to the Washington region. Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium and host of National Geographic’s Cosmos , is said to be a fan. The elder Golphin, an adviser for the music department at the University of North Carolina , regularly takes Romanieo to to university classes to observe. “When he looked in my classroom, all I saw was his hair, his forehead and his eyeballs,” said Brian Hogan, a professor of chemistry at UNC. “And his eyeballs, they looked like hard-boiled eggs, they were open so wide.” Related: 7-year-old California boy saves 10K for college with his own recycling company Hogan was a skeptic at the beginning, but little Romanieo quickly won him over. “He could be the next Einstein,” he said. “He’s got a mind that is built to solve problems.” Romanieo’s parents hope that their son’s aptitude for science will lead him change people’s lives for the better. But they also acknowledge that his interests could just as easily lead him to a career in the arts. “Let the boy free, and he’s going to create his world,” Golphin said. Via the Washington Post Photos from Facebook

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Tesla just unveiled the world’s largest battery storage plant

February 1, 2017 by  
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Tesla just completed construction on what it claims is the largest lithium-ion battery storage project in the world. The facility is located at in Ontario, California and it consists of 396 Tesla powerpacks that can store 80 megawatt-hours of electricity – that’s enough to power over 2,500 households for a day or 15,000 households for four hours. Tesla nabbed the contract to build the battery storage facility for Southern California Edison in September 2016, and it was completed by the end of that year. The project consists of two 10 megawatt systems – each made of 198 Tesla Powerpacks and 24 inverters – connected to two different circuits at the Mira Loma Substation. Tesla Chief Technical Officer JB Straubel said “Storage is quite a new thing…and this is a different breed of battery. This is the tip of the iceberg of how much storage we’ll see on the grid .” Related: Solar homes with Tesla’s Powerwall 2.0 are already cost-competitive with the grid in Australia SCE said the facility would allow them to draw more on clean energies like solar power . When clean energy projects produce more electricity than the utility needs, it can now be stores and utilized during peak hours. The Tesla battery storage facility seems like the perfect answer to our energy issues, but MIT Technology Review points out lithium batteries are still expensive, and no one has said how much the facility cost. It’s also not clear how many cycles the Powerpack batteries can go through before they begin to degrade – MIT estimates 5,000 cycles, which would work well in a home but not as well in a grid setting. At the ribbon-cutting, SCE CEO Kevin Payne said, “This project is part of our vision at SCE to take advantage of the wind and the sun, and operate a flexible grid that delivers clean energy to power our homes, our businesses, and our vehicles. Standing here today among these Tesla Powerpacks is a great reminder of how fast technology is changing the electric power industry and the opportunities that will come with it.” Via MIT Technology Review Images via Ernesto Sanchez/Edison International

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India’s capital of Delhi just banned plastic disposables

January 23, 2017 by  
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While balls dropped, glasses clinked, and fireworks lit up the sky on January 1, India rang in the new year with a death knell for single-use plastic. To ease growing pollution in the capital of Delhi, the National Green Tribunal has not only banned plastic disposables in the territory, but it’s also directing Delhi authorities to take “immediate steps” to reduce waste in the three main dumping sites of Okhla, Gazipur, and Bhalswa, which residents allege use illegal mass-burning technology that creates air pollution. “Each of these sites is a depiction of mess that can be created for environment and health of people of Delhi,” Swatanter Kumar, who chairs the tribunal, said in a statement. The National Green Tribunal had earlier chastened the Delhi government for its “laxity” over the rising frequency of smog so thick and acrid it sears eyes and burns throats. Plants that fail to comply with prescriptions laid out by the Air Prevention and Control of Pollution Act and Solid Waste Management Rules will face fines of 500,000 rupees—or $7,346 in American dollars—per incident, Kumar said. Related: California officially becomes the first state to ban plastic bags Similarly, Delhi’s vegetable vendors and slaughter houses that throw garbage in public places will have to cough up 10,000 rupees ($147) in reparative costs. Delhi residents have hailed the changes as both necessary and long overdue. “This is a brilliant move,” Priyanshu Sharma, who studies hotel management, told the Hindustani Times . “There are dumps around our house and sometimes they do not get cleaned for days. People also have to learn not to litter. A cleaner Delhi will always be a better Delhi.” Others expressed a mix of optimism and caution. “We have been trying to keep our city clean through various programs and it’s great that others will join in too in their own little ways because of this ban,” said Priyadarshini Valecha, who owns a waste-management company in Gurgaon. “Putting a fine is an effective way of reducing waste. But, only time will tell how successful this would be. I wish it the best!” Via TreeHugger Photos by Julian Stallabrass and Tawheed Manzoor

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Tesla just introduced the world’s longest range electric car

January 23, 2017 by  
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Tesla just made electric vehicle (EV) history, but you’d be forgiven if you didn’t know. With nary an announcement or social media post, the company surreptitiously introduced the Model S 100D, which boasts an impressive, record-breaking EPA-estimated range of 335 miles. Like the S 90D, the S 100D has a top speed of 155 miles per hour, and can reach 60 miles per hour from zero in a mere 2.4 seconds. If you’re looking for an EV that can prowl the roads for a long time on a single charge, the Tesla Model S 100D is now the car to beat. Compared against the Model S P100D, the S 100D can drive 20 miles further on one charge, and while it takes longer to accelerate from zero to 60 miles per hour (the S P100D can accomplish the feat in 2.5 seconds), the S 100D costs around $30,000 less than the P100D and includes the same 100 kWh battery pack . Related: Check out this adorable $500 electric Tesla Model S just for kids (sorry adults) Surprisingly, Tesla rolled out the exciting new option with little pomp, instead quietly adding an update to their online design studio . The new S 100D starts at $95,000, which is only about $3,000 more than the 90D. Given its extra range of 41 miles more than the 90D, some people may think an extra $3,000 is quite a bargain. Aside from the different battery packs – the 90D has the 90 kWh battery pack – both cars have identical standard equipment. As of December 2016, such equipment includes “collision avoidance and automatic emergency braking,” according to the design studio website. Electrek points out the carmaker has never before offered as many options as they provide now. With the affordable new S 100D, Tesla could see a boost in sales, as many new buyers may opt for the longest range they can get. Via Autoblog and Electrek Images via Tesla and Tesla Facebook

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Alison Canyon natural gas facility could reopen despite unresolved issues over leak

January 18, 2017 by  
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In a troubling decision , California state regulators could allow the Aliso Canyon natural gas site near Los Angeles to reopen, despite the fact that the cause of 2015’s massive gas leak has never been determined. In October, a pressurized gas well blew out and released a massive plume of natural gas for five months before it was sealed permanently with cement, forcing thousands of nearby residents to evacuate their homes. It’s unclear exactly when the site will reopen, and there are still two public hearings in February before regulators make a final decision. So far, only 34 of the remaining 114 wells on the site have been tested for safety. While those particular wells have passed pressure tests, there are indications that some may have below-ground leaks. The extent of them, however, is unknown. Even more disturbing is the fact that the Santa Susana Fault runs through the gas field, yet seismic testing has yet been completed verifying the safety of the facility in the event of an earthquake . Geologists tapped by the state in December 2016 warned regulators that a significant earthquake is likely to hit the area sometime in the next 50 years. Related: Damage report reveals LA methane leak is one of the worst disasters in US history Despite this, there is some good news: the state is requiring Southern California Gas Co. to take new safety precautions that weren’t in place before the leak. For one thing, the utility is required to monitor wells for leaks now. Regulators are capping the production of the field – while it has a capacity of 83 billion cubic feet, it’s only going to be allowed to operate at 29 billion cubic feet going forward, with surface pressures nearly 20 percent less than what the gas company has requested. While reopening the facility still poses risks, it seems the state is doing what it can to reduce them in the future. Via Los Angeles Times Images via SoCalGas

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California storms could herald the end of punishing historic drought

January 13, 2017 by  
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Californians may finally receive some relief from the drought they’ve grappled with for five brutal years. Recent storms drenching the state with rain and snow could enable at least Northern California to leave the drought in the past. National Weather Service specialist Tom Fisher said Southern California is seeing the highest rainfall “in at least five years,” while Northern California experiences their highest rainfall “in at least 10 years.” The United States Drought Monitor said Northern California has at last escaped the drought, but Southern California is still grappling with dry conditions. About 30 percent of that region is still experiencing extreme or exceptional drought. Other officials warned it may be too early to claim a full victory over the drought, as California weather conditions can change. Los Angeles Department of Water Resources spokesperson Ted Thomas said the state sometimes begins with a wet winter, only to see dry conditions prevail later on in the season. According to the US Drought Monitor, over 26 million people are estimated to live in areas still dealing with drought. Related: 713 trillion gallons of water discovered under drought-stricken California The extreme conditions have inspired California farmers to come up with creative ways to store water . Terranova Ranch general manager Don Cameron flooded the ranch’s vineyards during the winter, allowing all that water to seep underground to replenish aquifers. As it rarely rains during California summers, and during the drought farmers couldn’t obtain the water they needed from surface reservoirs, they often had to pump water out of the earth to water their crops. But as the drought persisted, wells dried up, and aquifers were depleted. Cameron’s idea worked – the water sank into the ground and didn’t harm the crops on the way down. Other farmers are working with University of California, Davis groundwater hydrologist Helen Dahlke to apply the innovative yet simple method of water management as storms dump water on the state. Cameron told NPR, “This is going to be the future for California. If we don’t store the water during flood periods, we’re not going to make it through the droughts.” Via Phys.org and NPR Images via James Daisa on Flickr and Bob Dass on Flickr

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