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Opinion | Schwarzenegger: Solar Costs Could Rise if California Regulators Get Their Way – The New York Times

Mr. Schwarzenegger is a former governor of California.

“California has more rooftops with solar panels than any other state and continues to be a leader in new installations. But a proposal from the state’s public utility commission threatens that progress.

It should be stopped in its tracks.

When I was California’s governor, we set a goal in 2006 of putting solar panels on one million roofs across the state. Skeptics said it couldn’t be done, but with bipartisan support in the State Legislature, California met its goal in 2019.

The state now has 1.3 million solar rooftops generating roughly 10,000 megawatts of electricity — enough to power three million homes. And more are being added every week. Roughly two-thirds of those rooftops are on houses and businesses; the rest are on government buildings.

But this hard-earned and vitally important accomplishment is now under threat. The California Public Utilities Commission is considering a plan that would make it too costly for many Californians to embrace solar power. A decision could come as soon as Jan. 27.”

Exxon Sets a 2050 Goal for Net Zero Greenhouse Gas Emissions – The New York Times

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/18/business/exxon-net-zero-emissions.html

“HOUSTON — Exxon Mobil, under increasing pressure from investors to address climate change, announced on Tuesday that it had the “ambition” to reach zero net greenhouse gas emissions from its operations by 2050.

The oil company, the largest in the United States, still remains behind several of its major competitors in its public climate commitments.

Exxon said it had identified 150 modifications of its exploration and production practices to help reach its goals, including electrification of operations with energy from renewable sources. Initial steps will include elimination of the flaring and venting of methane, a byproduct of drilling that is a powerful greenhouse gas.”

“. . . Exxon’s targets include so-called Scope 1 emissions, which are produced directly by the company, and Scope 2 emissions from the generation of power that Exxon buys, such as electricity supplied by utilities.

But the new policies stop short of including Scope 3 emissions, which result from the combustion of fuels by drivers and other customers, as well as other companies along Exxon’s supply chain. The overwhelming majority of emissions linked to companies are Scope 3, and they are the hardest to control or compensate for.

European companies have begun to embrace commitments to Scope 3, which will require immense efforts, including reforestation, the capture and removal of carbon from operations, and technological advances such as fuels made from recycled carbon. Many of the companies are selling off hydrocarbon businesses and redirecting resources to renewable energy like solar and wind power.” . . . .

Shell, the largest European oil company, has set a 2050 target for net zero emissions that includes Scope 3, which it says accounts for over 90 percent of its emissions. Equinor, the Norwegian national oil company, has a similar target, as does BP, although it excluded its joint operations with Rosneft, a Russian company.

A North Sea Auction Produces Big Plans for Scottish Wind Farms – The New York Times

“Oil giants like BP and Shell as well as Iberdrola, the Spanish utility, look like the big winners in Scotland’s first offshore wind auction, whose results were announced on Monday.

If the proposed wind farms are constructed, they would triple Britain’s capacity to generate electricity from turbines at sea.

They would also advance still nascent plans to transform the Scottish North Sea region from oil and gas production into a major area for renewable electric power.

“This is not just going to be a matter of producing green power,” said Soeren Lassen, head of offshore wind at Wood Mackenzie, a market research firm. “This is fuel to build up a green economy,” he added.”

Manchin’s Choice on Build Back Better: Mine Workers or Mine Owners – The New York Times

“WASHINGTON — For years, burly men in camouflage hunting jackets have been a constant presence in the Capitol Hill office of Senator Joe Manchin III, their United Mine Workers logos giving away their mission: to lobby not only for the interests of coal, but also on more personal matters such as pensions, health care and funding to address black lung disease.

So when the miners’ union and the West Virginia A.F.L.-C.I.O. came out last month with statements pleading for passage of President Biden’s Build Back Better Act — just hours after Mr. Manchin, Democrat of West Virginia, said he was a “no” — the Capitol took notice.”

A Widening Web of Undersea Cables Connects Britain to Green Energy – The New York Times

“BLYTH, England — Britain’s economic and political ties to Europe may be fraying, but a growing web of undersea electrical cables binds the nation’s vital power system and its clean energy aspirations to the continent.

The longest and most powerful of these cables was recently laid across the North Sea, from a hydroelectric plant in Norway’s rugged mountains to Blyth, an industrial port in northeast England. Completed last year, it stretches 450 miles, roughly the distance from New York to Toronto. The twin cables, each about five inches in diameter, can carry enough power for nearly 1.5 million homes.

The idea is to use the cable to balance the two nations’ power systems and take advantage of differences between them. In the broadest terms, Britain wants to tap into Norway’s often abundant hydropower, while the Norwegians will be able to benefit from surges of electricity from British wind farms that might otherwise be wasted.”

The Ghost Wolves of Galveston Island – The New York Times

“From a distance, the canids of Galveston Island, Texas, look almost like coyotes, prowling around the beach at night, eyes gleaming in the dark.

But look closer and oddities appear. The animals’ bodies seem slightly out of proportion, with overly long legs, unusually broad heads and sharply pointed snouts. And then there is their fur, distinctly reddish in hue, with white patches on their muzzles.

The Galveston Island canids are not conventional coyotes — at least, not entirely. They carry a ghostly genetic legacy: DNA from red wolves, which were declared extinct in the wild in 1980.

For years, these genes have been hiding in plain sight, tucked away in the seemingly unremarkable animals that scavenged for food behind housing developments and roamed the grounds of the local airport.”

Can a Tiny Territory in the South Pacific Power Tesla’s Ambitions? – The New York Times

“GORO, New Caledonia — From the reef-fringed coast of New Caledonia, the Coral Sea stretches into the South Pacific. Slender native pines, listing like whimsical Christmas trees, punctuate the shoreline. The landscape, one of the most biodiverse on the planet, is astonishingly beautiful until the crest of a hill where a different vista unfolds: a gouged red earth pierced by belching smokestacks and giant trucks rumbling across the lunar-like terrain.

This is Goro, the largest nickel mine on a tiny French territory suspended between Australia and Fiji that may hold up to a quarter of the world’s nickel reserves. It also poses a critical test for Tesla, the world’s largest electric vehicle maker, which wants to take control of its supply chain and ensure that the minerals used for its car batteries are mined in an environmentally and socially responsible fashion.

Tesla’s strategy, the largest effort by a Western electric vehicle maker to directly source minerals, could serve as a model for a green industry confronting an uncomfortable paradox. While consumers are attracted to electric vehicles for their clean reputation, the process of harvesting essential ingredients like nickel is dirty, destructive and often politically fraught.

Because of its nickel industry, New Caledonia is one of the world’s largest carbon emitters per capita. And mining, which began soon after New Caledonia was colonized in 1853, is intimately linked to the exploitation of its Indigenous Kanak people. The legacy of more than a century of stolen land and crushed traditions has left Goro’s nickel output at the mercy of frequent labor strikes and political protests.”

Battling for Bolivia’s Lithium That’s Vital to Electric Cars – The New York Times

“SALAR DE UYUNI, Bolivia — The mission was quixotic for a small Texas energy start-up: Beat out Chinese and Russian industrial giants in unlocking mineral riches that could one day power tens of millions of electric vehicles.

A team traveled from Austin to Bolivia in late August to meet with local and national leaders at a government lithium complex and convince them that the company, EnergyX, had a technology that would fulfill Bolivia’s potential to be a global green-energy power. On arriving, they found that the conference they had planned to attend was canceled and that security guards blocked the location.

Still, the real attraction was in plain sight: a giant chalky sea of brine high in the Andes called the Salar de Uyuni, which is rich in lithium, among several minerals with growing value worldwide because they are needed in batteries used in electric cars and on the power grid.

Surrounded by rusty equipment, empty production ponds and pumps uncoupled from pipes, it seemed a forlorn spot. But to Teague Egan, EnergyX’s chief executive, it had nothing but promise.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
A light handed approach may be best, given how sensitive the Bolivians are about foreign encroachment. They will be looking for trustworthy, generous, and state of the art. It appears this Texan entrepreneur has a shot.

Meet an Ecologist Who Works for God (and Against Lawns) – The New York Times

“WADING RIVER, N.Y. — If Bill Jacobs were a petty man, or a less religious one, he might look through the thicket of flowers, bushes and brambles that encircle his home and see enemies all around. For to the North, and to the South, and to the West and East and all points in between, stretch acres and acres of lawns.

Lawns that are mowed and edges trimmed with military precision. Lawns where leaves are banished with roaring machines and that are oftentimes doused with pesticides. Lawns that are fastidiously manicured by landscapers like Justin Camp, Mr. Jacobs’s neighbor next door, who maintains his own pristine blanket of green.

“It takes a special kind of person to do something like that,” Mr. Camp said, nodding to wooded wilds of his neighbor’s yard. “I mow lawns for a living, so it’s not my thing.”

Mr. Jacobs and his wife, Lynn Jacobs, don’t have a lawn to speak of, not counting the patch of grass out back over which Mr. Jacobs runs his old manual mower every now and then.”

” . . . About 20 years ago, he began compiling quotes from the Bible, saints and popes that expound on the sanctity of Earth and its creatures, and posting them online. He considered naming the project after St. Francis of Assisi, the go-to saint for animals and the environment. But, not wanting to impose another European saint on American land, he instead named it after Kateri Tekakwitha, a 17th Century Algonquin-Mohawk woman who converted to Catholicism as a teenager and, in 2012, became the first Native American to be canonized.”

STC vs. PTC: Why Solar Panel Testing Matters

Energy Miser

Mark Durrenberger’s Blog — writing about homes and energy.

STC vs. PTC: Why Solar Panel Testing Matters

December 1, 2015

Solar Installation in New EnglandYou’re the proud owner of a new 7,800-watt solar energy system. But every time you check your online monitoring, your system is operating below the full 7,800 watts of capacity.

Then you notice the rating plate on your inverter in the basement says 7,600 watts. What the heck?

I can explain the perfectly legitimate reasons for the discrepancy, but first, I have to go off on a tangent and discuss solar panel testing.

 

Standard Test Conditions (STC)

A solar panel is first tested right in the factory. As the panel comes off the production line, a worker (or robot) places the panel on a “flash table” and hooks up the positive and negative leads to a measuring device. The panel is then “flashed” with fake sunlight.  The connected electronics record a number of performance values including the panel’s voltage (volts), current (amps) and power (watts).

STCThese testing conditions are called “Standard Test Conditions” or STC. But what’s standard about them? Well, the light source is calibrated to a defined set of wavelengths and so that precisely 1,000 watts per square meter fall on the front glass of the solar panel. Temperature is the other key test condition – everything is at 77°F (25°C). The solar cells, glass, aluminum frame, and back-sheet are all at 77°F.

If you haven’t noticed already, these test conditions are nothing like the real world. So why does the manufacturer even bother?

As it turns out, there is quite a bit of natural variation – upwards of 5-6% – in the power output from solar cells and panels, even from panels made in the same production run. The manufacturer uses STC testing to sort panels by power and ensure that similar panels are sold and used together.

For example, let’s say that after a flash test, a panel measures out at 257 watts. The manufacturer will “bin” that panel in the “255 to 259.9 watt” bin. A 263.4 watt panel will end up in the “260 to 264.9 watt” bin and so on. The manufacturer will then sell the 255-259.9 watt panels as 255-watt panels, and the 260 to 264.9-watt panels as 260-watt panels. (By the way, even though the panels come off the same production line and cost exactly the same to manufacture, manufacturers charge more for the higher wattage panels.)

Unfortunately, this testing gives only a rough indication of how solar panels will perform in the real world. That’s where the next test comes in.

 

PVUSA Test Conditions (PTC)

In the mid-1990s, under the direction of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), a set of test conditions were developed to measure solar panel performance under “real world” conditions. The conditions were called “Photovoltaics for Utility Scale Applications Test Conditions” or PVUSA Test Conditions; more commonly “PTC.”

Source: STC vs. PTC: Why Solar Panel Testing Matters

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