Monthly Archives: December 2017

It’s cold outside. What about EVs?

Tips for getting the most out of your EV in winter

by Anna Vanderspek, MassEnergy
December 20, 2017

You don’t need to buy a second car for the winter or restrict your driving radius. To get the most out of your EV, we recommend that you:

Precondition your vehicle. “Preconditioning” means heating up your car’s battery while it’s still plugged in. (Most cars will allow you to start preconditioning remotely via cell phone.) This way, your battery warms up and operates more efficiently when you start to drive but you don’t have to deplete your battery’s reserves to heat it. Not to mention that you step into a warm vehicle when you’re ready to leave, so you won’t need to crank the heat as much when you unplug. It’s a win-win-win!

Use the special heating features of your vehicle. Most modern EVs offer seat warmers and heated steering wheels. Use these features! They require less energy than heating the air and will make you feel comfortable even if you keep the cabin air temperature slightly lower.

Drive efficiently. Turn on regenerative breaking or set your car in eco-mode. By capturing any energy that might otherwise be lost, you’re extending the range of your car. If ever there was a time not to speed, it’s when it’s cold outside. Speed increases drag and drag reduces mileage.

Clean off your car. Chunks of snow and ice weigh down your vehicle and compromise its aerodynamics, both of which will reduce your range.

Put on a sweater or keep on your coat. We are all used to driving in toasty cabins because we have become accustomed to the heat of incredibly inefficient gas engines. It’s obvious, but if you keep on your coat or put on a sweater (gloves are a good idea too), you’ll need to heat the cabin less and your battery will thank you.

Park and charge somewhere warm. If you can park and charge your EV someplace warm, your battery will be glad. For example, if you park outside, parking on the sunny side of the parking lot rather than the shady side will make a difference.

Long story short, you don’t need to worry: EVs can handle whatever New England can throw at them.

» Read the full story

Tesla’s enormous battery in Australia, just weeks old, is already responding to outages in ‘record’ time

By Brian Fung, Washington Post
December 26, 2017

Less than a month after Tesla unveiled a new backup power system in South Australia, the world’s largest lithium-ion battery is already being put to the test. And it appears to be far exceeding expectations: In the past three weeks alone, the Hornsdale Power Reserve has smoothed out at least two major energy outages, responding even more quickly than the coal-fired backups that were supposed to provide emergency power.

Tesla’s battery last week kicked in just 0.14 seconds after one of Australia’s biggest plants, the Loy Yang facility in the neighboring state of Victoria, suffered a sudden, unexplained drop in output, according to the International Business Times. And the week before that, another failure at Loy Yang prompted the Hornsdale battery to respond in as little as four seconds — or less, according to some estimates — beating other plants to the punch. State officials have called the response time “a record,” according to local media.

The effectiveness of Tesla’s battery is being closely watched in a region that is in the grips of an energy crisis. The price of electricity is soaring in Australia, particularly in the state of South Australia, where a 2016 outage led 1.7 million residents to lose power in a blackout. Storms and heat waves have caused additional outages, and many Australians are bracing for more with the onset of summer in the Southern Hemisphere.

The Hornsdale battery system, which uses the same energy-storage tech found in Tesla’s electric cars, is one of chief executive Elon Musk’s newest projects. In March, Musk, who is known for setting high goals and only sometimes meeting them, vowed on Twitter to deliver a battery system for South Australia’s struggling grid within 100 days or it would be free. By early July, the state had signed a deal with Tesla and the French-based energy company Neoen to produce the battery. And by Dec. 1, South Australia announced that it had switched on the Hornsdale battery.

Fed by wind turbines at the nearby Hornsdale wind farm, the battery stores excess energy that is produced when the demand for electricity isn’t peaking. It can power up to 30,000 homes, though only for short periods — meaning that the battery must still be supported by traditional power plants in the event of a long outage.

A spokesman for Tesla didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Nonetheless, the Hornsdale reserve has already shown that it can provide what’s known as “contingency” service — keeping the grid stable in a crisis and easing what would otherwise be a significant power failure. And, more important, the project is the biggest proof-of-concept yet that batteries such as Tesla’s can help mitigate one of renewable energy’s most persistent problems: how to use it when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing.

“When you think about energy storage, it’s not a [power] generation resource,” said Stephen Coughlin, the vice president of energy storage platforms at the Arlington-based AES Corporation, which is behind several battery projects in California, the Netherlands and several other countries. “What it’s really doing is providing a much-needed injection of reliability and resiliency into the network overall.”

Where it can take as much as 10 minutes to spin up a traditional turbine in a pinch, added Coughlin, it’s not uncommon to see systems such as Tesla’s intervene in fractions of a second.

This isn’t Musk’s only experiment with large-scale batteries. Last year, Tesla said it had equipped a small island in American Samoa with thousands of solar panels and batteries that could serve the area’s 600 inhabitants, shifting them almost entirely off fossil fuels. In October, Musk responded to the hurricane crisis in Puerto Rico by offering to discuss building a solar grid for the island. Parts of Puerto Rico are still without power, months after Hurricane Maria ripped down power lines and other energy infrastructure.

An electric grid consisting of distributed solar panels, paired with a large battery, could prove transformative for some island economies, analysts say. Under normal circumstances, the price of imported fossil fuels can become a drain on local businesses. But the abundant sunshine at tropical latitudes makes solar energy extremely cost-efficient.

“[Big batteries] definitely can be a game changer for island or island-type economies,” said Ravi Manghani, director of energy storage at GTM Research, a market analysis firm. “Hawaii, for instance, has one of the highest retail rates in the U.S. [for electricity], and that’s because of the cost of shipping diesel or other fuel oils which currently are used by a lot of the existing facilities.”

What’s more, he added, spreading solar panels out across an island reduces the likelihood of the entire grid going down because of storms.

Other battery projects, including in the United States, have already helped manage spikes in demand. For example, a major 2015 gas leak near Los Angeles that kept some gas-fired plants from producing energy at peak times prompted Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas and Electric to announce energy storage projects that were completed earlier this year, according to Sam Wilkinson, an industry analyst at IHS.

In an April report, Wilkinson highlighted the rapid rise of China and Australia as energy storage leaders.

“For the first time Asia accounts for more than one third of the global pipeline” for energy storage, the report read. “This underscores the importance that China, Australia, South Korea and India are all predicted to have in the global market.”

» Read the original article

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China Turns On the World’s Largest Floating Solar Farm

Floating on a lake over a collapsed coal mine, the power station in Anhui province can produce 40 megawatts of energy

by Jason Daley, Smithsonian Magazine
June 7, 2017

Last week, workers switched on a solar energy plant capable of producing 40 megawatts of power, which floats on a manmade lake in China’s Anhui province near the city of Huainan, reports Sarah Zheng at the South China Morning Post. The array is the largest floating solar project in the world, though at the brisk pace China is building new renewable projects it’s unlikely to hold that title very long.

Screen Shot 2017-12-29 at 12.33.14 PM

Built by the company Sungrow Power Supply, the power plant will produce enough energy to power 15,000 homes, Zheng reports. While the company has not revealed the exact size of the operation, it produces twice as much energy as the previous holder of the largest-floating-solar-plant title, which is located in the same area and was launched by the company Xinyi Solar in 2016.

Anhui province is a coal-rich region, and the Sungrow plant is located on a lake that was once the site of intensive mining. Heavy rains filled the area with water. As Zhen reports, the depth of the lake varies from 12 feet to 30 feet.

So why build solar plants on top of lakes and reservoirs? Fiona Harvey at The Guardian explains that building on bodies of water, especially manmade lakes that are not ecologically sensitive, helps protect agricultural land and terrestrial ecosystems from being developed for energy use. The water also cools the electronics in the solar panels, helping them to work more efficiently, reports Alistair Boyle for The Telegraph. For similar reasons Britain built a 23,000-panel floating solar farm on the Queen Elizabeth II reservoir near Heathrow airport in 2016 to help power the Thames Water treatment plant.

While the floating solar plant is the largest in the world, it pales in comparison to some of China’s non-floating solar projects. The Longyangxia Dam Solar Park on the Tibetan plateau hosts 4 million solar panels that produce 850 megawatts of energy. Even that will soon be eclipsed by a project in the Ningxia Autonomous Region, which will have 6 million solar panels and produce 2 gigawatts of power.

» Read the full article

» Read more clean energy alternatives news on No Fracked Gas in Mass

Tennessee Gas admits it discharged tainted pipeline wastewater near Agawam compressor station

By Mary C. Serreze, MassLive / Springfield Republican
December 26, 2017

AGAWAM — On Nov. 20, a contractor for Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. improperly discharged 16,500 gallons of pipeline wastewater from a storage tank to the ground near the company’s natural gas compressor station on Suffield Street.

The water, which contained metals and other contaminants, had been used for “hydrostatic testing” of the Connecticut Expansion pipeline project under construction by the Kinder Morgan subsidiary.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Dec. 12 sent Tennessee notice of an “urgent legal matter” and demanded information about the incident to see if there was a violation of the Clean Water Act. Tennessee responded on Dec. 21. The documents are contained in a biweekly progress report Tennessee filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC.

The water contained reportable levels of copper, iron, and lead, and exceeded standards for two chemicals: tetrachloroethylene (known as percloroethylene, or PERC), and bis(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate, also known as DEHP, according to independent lab tests Tennessee provided to the federal agencies. PERC, an industrial solvent, and DEHP, used to produce polyvinyl chloride, are classified by the EPA as likely carcinogens.

Tennessee had previously agreed that the water would be trucked offsite to a licensed disposal facility.

In its request for information, the EPA’s Region I Boston office said the Nov. 20 spill may have entered a tributary of the Worthington Brook, a cold water fishery. In response, Tennessee said the water “infiltrated the ground and did not enter any body of water.” The company further said it “did not observe any environmental damage resulting from the discharge.”

An onsite contractor was to blame, Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. Environmental Specialist Brian Benito wrote to the federal regulators.

The contractor never notified Tennessee of its intent to empty the tank, Benito wrote. Tennessee learned of the problem Nov. 27 when a separate contractor showed up to haul the water off-site to an approved facility, and found that there was no water in the tank.
The contractors were not named. Benito wrote that the problem could have been avoided if Tennessee had posted signage on the tank and outfitted it with a lock.

According to the firm’s narrative, Tennessee on Sept. 29 withdrew water from a municipal hydrant, and on Oct. 2 used it to test part of its pipeline for evidence of leaks. The water was returned to the tank and discharged “through a hose into a filter bag located in an upland vegetated area” inside the station yard three days before Thanksgiving.

Tennessee notified the EPA and Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection on Nov. 28.

A pipeline watchdog group on Friday said that FERC has allowed Tennessee to engage in “sloppy practices” by allowing the company to police itself.

The Massachusetts Pipeline Awareness Network, in a letter to the federal agency, said Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. and its contractors should be kept “on a much tighter leash” and held to strict procedures and oversight.

The Connecticut Expansion Project consists of three sections: a 1.3-mile New York loop in Albany County, a 3.8-mile Massachusetts loop through Berkshire County, and an 8.3-mile Connecticut loop that starts at the Agawam compressor and heads south over the state border.

The project, which is nearing completion, is designed to deliver 72,100 dekatherms of service per day from the Iroquois Transmission System in New York to three natural gas distribution utilities in Connecticut.

The Berkshire county section of the pipeline has been the subject of intense legal fights and protests, as it crosses the Otis State Forest, seen as an ecologically valuable piece of state conservation land.

» Read the original article

» See No Fracked Gas in Mass’ CT Expansion pipeline news archive

Climate overview: Hurricanes and heatwaves: stark signs of climate change ‘new normal’

This year is set to be the third warmest on record in the US, as scientists say the fingerprints of climate change can be seen in numerous extreme weather events

by Oliver Milman, The Guardian
December 28, 2017

Scientists say 2017 is set to be the third warmest year on record in the US as they look back on a year littered with stark signals of climate change. The year-to-date average temperature across the contiguous US has been 2.6F above the 20th-century average, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa), placing it only behind 2012 and 2016 in terms of record warmth.

Average temperatures for Jan to Nov 2017
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December may influence the overall 2017 ranking, but according to Jake Crouch, a climate scientist at Noaa: “We can say with confidence that the year will be in at least the top five,” for record warmth.

“It’s been another really warm year for the contiguous US,” Crouch said. “The last time we saw a year with below-average temperatures was 1996. So this will be the 21st consecutive year that’s above average. And even though it’s not a record, we are seeing climate change manifest itself.”

Eight states – Arizona, New Mexico, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia – have in fact experienced record warmth for the first 11 months of the year. A national record, however, is out of reach due to the lack of an El Niño, a periodic climatic event that appeared last year and spurred extra heat.

But the fingerprint of climate change extends beyond just temperature. California’s deepest drought on record was broken by intense rainfall at the start of the year, an example of the long dry spells interrupted by ferocious downpours that scientists say are becoming more frequent in a warming world.

To the north, Arctic sea ice reached a record low wintertime maximum extent as, incredibly, temperature instruments in Alaska malfunctioned due to the surging warmth.

A man walks through a damaged neighborhood in the Caribbean island of Barbuda, which was nearly leveled by Hurricane Irma. Photograph: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Further south, there was a hurricane season that was unusually punishing. There were six major hurricanes, defined as category three or above, including the first two major hurricanes – Harvey and Irma – to hit the continental US in 12 years.
“This was a hurricane season that wouldn’t quit,” said Timothy Gallaudet, acting Noaa administrator.

While these hurricanes may well have formed without human-induced warming, the extra heat in the Atlantic and in the atmosphere helped fuel the storms. Harvey, which dumped around 25tn gallons of water on the Houston area in just a few days, derived perhaps a third of its strength from the extra heat added to the planet since industrialization, according to one estimate.

The US is moving backwards as far as rational climate policy goes Andrew Dessler, climate scientist

“The number of hurricanes wasn’t related to climate change, that was bad luck, but the hurricanes were different because of climate change,” said Andrew Dessler, a climate scientist at Texas A&M University.

“It’s very reasonable to assume that Harvey was made worse by climate change. Maria and Irma were consistent with the idea that the most powerful hurricanes will get more powerful. This is the kind of stuff we will have to get used to.”

Ultimately, 2017 may well be remembered more for the political response to climate change. The newly installed Trump administration set about tearing up policies designed to address global warming, such as Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan, announced the US was to withdraw from the Paris climate accord and repeatedly questioned the scientific basis of climate change.

Meanwhile, specific regulations curbing planet-warming gases from vehicles and drilling operations were scaled back, with more federal land and water opened up for fossil fuel exploration.

“The US is moving backwards as far as rational climate policy goes and I guess we will have to see whether this is a blip or a long-term trend,” said Dessler. “A lot will depend on the elections next year and whoever the president is in 2020.

“Everyone recognizes that the weather is weird and things are getting warmer, but climate change has become an identity issue. If you see yourself as a good Republican, you don’t believe in climate change. It’s hard to change that viewpoint when it’s part of someone’s identity. It’s like trying to convince someone they should be Jewish rather than Catholic.”

As for 2018, as the Environmental Protection Agency holds a sort of show trial, perhaps televised, of climate science itself, the planet will continue to warm.

“My expectation is that it will be another hot year,” said Dessler. “The climate of the past has gone. This is our new normal. I doubt we’ll ever see a record cold year again.”

» Read original article

Though those of us in the eastern part of the US are experiencing an uncharacteristicaly long run of unusually frigid weather, far more areas of the world are experiencing above normal temperatures. This is important to remember when encountering people who, experiencing this cold snap, are dismissive of the overall global trend of a warming climate.

This image from University of Maine Climate Change Institute, showing the difference from normal average temperature for this week (blue = colder than normal, red = warmer than normal) is helpful in understanding the difference between current weather where you are vs. the rest of the globe.


Beside showing that many more places are warmer than normal than colder, it also shows a trend predicted for a few decades, the poles and arctic regions experiencing some of the more significant temperature rise.

» Visit U. of Maine’s Climate Change Institute’s “Climate Reanalyzer” site