Tagged: California

New NatGas power plant will integrate renewable energy power plants into grid

GE just announced the largest debt financing this year for a thermal power plant in the US. Located in Riverside County, California, the massive 800 MW Sentinel Facility will help facilitate the integration of renewable energy into the power grid. The plan is being funded by a union of mega companies including GE Energy Financial Services, Diamond Generating Corporation and Competitve Power Ventures, and when it is completed it will produce enough power for 239,000 homes.

The thermal plant is part of California’s program to derive 33% of its power from renewable energy by the year 2020. In addition to the CPV Sentinel Facility, Riverside will welcome the Blythe Solar Project, a 968 megawatt solar power plant, driving the state even further toward their goal.

Aside from generating power, the $2 billion project will also give way to 300 construction jobs and 400 employment jobs — expected to inject $55 million into the local economy. Sales tax alone from the project will bring $30 million, and property taxes will provide the county with an additional $6.4 million.

And it ain’t going to buy coal from the Four Corners and PNM.

Oh yeah – that’s more post-construction direct permanent jobs than the whole Keystone XL pipeline.

Thanks, Mike

World’s biggest solar power plant is now up and running


Click to enlarge

Did you hear about the largest solar power plant in the world and how it is now producing electricity? Did it make the nightly broadcast news?

Probably not, but Solyndra was all over the news media for a while. There’s a blatant lack of coverage for solar success stories, so it wouldn’t be surprising if most people aren’t hearing about them. California’s Topaz project is the largest solar power plant in the world with a 550 MW capacity, and it is now in full operation. It is located in San Luis Obispo County and has 9 million solar panels. Construction began just two years ago.

The electricity produced by the plant will be purchased by Pacific Gas and Electric. The solar panels were manufactured by First Solar and the project was developed by First Solar.

SEIA says about 200 homes in California are powered for each MW of solar power capacity. So, for a 550 MW solar plant, about 110,000 homes could be powered when the sun is shining. First Solar has said this figure could be 160,000 homes in the case of Topaz…

Using the electricity created by this huge solar plant rather than fossil fuels will prevent the generation of about 377,000 tons of CO2 annually. It will also not produce harmful air pollution the way coal power plants do.

There’s more, of course. If you’re interested enough in solar power to read through a post like this you may already know something of the life and cost of solar panels. Though it’s nice to dust them off to keep efficiency up, that’s about it for maintenance. Convertors to kick DC electricity over to AC need replacement a few times in the life of a system; but, you can expect these critters to last 20 or 30 years with very little reduction in output.

Compared to the cost of coal or even natural gas, compared to the cost of maintaining a nuclear power plant – this is going to cost peanuts. And only squirrelly politicians and flat-earthers would rather spend the extra money for dirty electricity.

Thanks, Mike — GMTA :)

First electric biker to earn Iron Butt

When someone tells Terry Hershner that an electric motorcycle can’t do a certain feat, he immediately begins trying to figure out how to prove them wrong. Seriously, the man is on a mission to show the world that electric transport is superior transport, with the two-wheeled mode being his validator of choice. The most recent example of this obsessive compulsion has led to him acquiring an iron butt.

For those unfamiliar with that term, relax, it’s not a medical condition. Rather, it means that he has officially traveled 1,000 miles or more in less than twenty-four hours on a motorcycle. In this case, an electric 2012 Zero S that he’s extensively modified, including the addition of an aerodynamic body kit created specifically for him by Craig Vetter, bunches of batteries (now 21 kilowatt-hours!), and nine separate chargers…

According to Hershner, he’s been told many times that this trip, with its lengthiness and time constraint would be impossible on a battery powered bike. So, he decided that the first day of National Drive Electric Week would be a good time to surmount the insurmountable.

Starting at 1:00 PM at Chargepoint headquarters – he would use that company’s chargers for the entire trip – he headed towards the Mexican border, about 500 miles away to the south. After covering 1,047 miles in 22 hours and 57 minutes, making nine charging stops along the way, he pulled back into that same parking lot with a big smile and joined the 53,000-plus members of the Iron Butt Association (IBA). Yes, there is such a thing.

I’m tired and tender just from watching his achievement.

California first in line to ban single-use plastic bags in the United States

California lawmakers have approved a measure that would make the state the first to impose a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags.

SB270 cleared the Senate on a 22-15 vote Friday and sent to Gov. Jerry Brown. It was approved by the Assembly a day earlier.

Senators who had previously opposed the bill, including incoming Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, a Los Angeles Democrat, this time supported the measure after protections were added for plastic bag manufacturers.

The bill by Democratic Sen. Alex Padilla of Los Angeles would prohibit single-use plastic bags at grocery stores and large pharmacies in 2015 and at convenience stores in 2016.

It includes $2 million in loans to help manufacturers shift to producing reusable bags and lets grocers charge 10 cents each for paper and reusable bags.

Typical American copout politicians. There isn’t a single one of these companies that needs a loan to shift production. If they’re that incompetent – they shouldn’t be in business.

The bill had sparked one of the most contentious debates in the last weeks of the legislative session, with aggressive lobbying by environmentalists and bag manufacturers.

For years, a statewide plastic bag ban has been an elusive goal for lawmakers trying to reduce the buildup of plastic waste in oceans and waterways that costs millions of dollars to cleanup. About 100 local jurisdictions in California already have adopted similar bans, including Los Angeles and San Francisco.

You may as well ask your Congress-critter, now, when will they get round to passing a matching national regulation. I expect I won’t still be alive when that happens.

Thanks, Mike

Exposure to agricultural pesticides during pregnancy can lead to autism

Pregnant women who lived in close proximity to fields and farms where chemical pesticides were applied experienced a two-thirds increased risk of having a child with autism spectrum disorder or other developmental delay, a study by researchers with the UC Davis MIND Institute has found. The associations were stronger when the exposures occurred during the second and third trimesters of the women’s pregnancies.

The large, multisite California-based study examined associations between specific classes of pesticides, including organophosphates, pyrethroids and carbamates, applied during the study participants’ pregnancies and later diagnoses of autism and developmental delay in their offspring…“While we still must investigate whether certain sub-groups are more vulnerable to exposures to these compounds than others, the message is very clear: Women who are pregnant should take special care to avoid contact with agricultural chemicals whenever possible…”

Twenty-one chemical compounds were identified in the organophosphate class, including chlorpyrifos, acephate and diazinon. The second most commonly applied class of pesticides was pyrethroids, one quarter of which was esfenvalerate, followed by lambda-cyhalothrin permethrin, cypermethrin and tau-fluvalinate. Eighty percent of the carbamates were methomyl and carbaryl…

The researchers found that during the study period approximately one-third of CHARGE Study participants lived in close proximity – within 1.25 to 1.75 kilometers – of commercial pesticide application sites. Some associations were greater among mothers living closer to application sites and lower as residential proximity to the application sites decreased, the researchers found.

Organophosphates applied over the course of pregnancy were associated with an elevated risk of autism spectrum disorder, particularly for chlorpyrifos applications in the second trimester. Pyrethroids were moderately associated with autism spectrum disorder immediately prior to conception and in the third trimester. Carbamates applied during pregnancy were associated with developmental delay.

Exposures to insecticides for those living near agricultural areas may be problematic, especially during gestation, because the developing fetal brain may be more vulnerable than it is in adults. Because these pesticides are neurotoxic, in utero exposures during early development may distort the complex processes of structural development and neuronal signaling, producing alterations to the excitation and inhibition mechanisms that govern mood, learning, social interactions and behavior.

You ain’t much safer in the heart of suburban America, either. Comparable recent studies of urban communities draw similar conclusions from industrial and transport pollution.

Poisonally, I’d suggest a return to xeriscaping nationwide. I don’t care how much rainfall you may experience, lay off the chemicals sold to dress your home up with a green, green lawn. You may be harming your next generation almost as much as the crabgrass you’re trying to eliminate.

Oh, yeah. Please lay off the spooky crap about vaccination. You’re just increasing the range of lifetime handicaps you may be inflicting upon your kiddies.

Great minds and all. Mike was noting this in “Suggestions for Posts” as I was putting it on the schedule. :)

California traffic stop leads to meth lab at retirement community

Fresno police say they made a routine traffic stop on Robert Short, 64, at Olive and Rowell on Saturday night and found he had meth in his car. Investigators then went to Short’s apartment near Willow and Butler, where they say he was cooking and distributing drugs.

Neighbors who live in the California League-Fresno Village say their retirement community is quiet and safe. So naturally neighbors were appalled to hear one of the tenants is in the Fresno County Jail for dealing and cooking meth in this complex.

“It’s shocking, I would never guess that anything like that would go on at a senior citizen village,” said Robin Schramek.

When Action News knocked on Short’s door, no one answered. But there were signs all over the door that demand privacy and no visitors. Neighbors say despite the tight-knit community there they didn’t know Short, who kept to himself…

When officers pulled Short over it was for a routine traffic stop. Since he’s on supervised release for previous meth sales they searched his car.

“When the officers searched the car they located four ounces of methamphetamine in the car, which is a lot of methamphetamine, so that’s consistent with somebody who’s selling,” said Fresno police Lt. Joe Gomez.

After searching his apartment, they found a half pound of meth, heroin and materials for a meth lab.

“Just shocking someone that age would do that, but actually a perfect place to do it, right? Retirement village, who would suspect it going on there?” said Gomez.

Well, what kind of community do you want to have? I’ll wager it took the coppers who stopped Short only a minute or two to check his priors, to find out he’s on supervised release for previous meth sales.

Don’t want to be surprised about drug dealers in your tight-knit community? Collectively set standards – legal standards – and check folks out before they move in. It’s not uncommon in the best of low-income projects to have rules established about evicting folks convicted of dangerous crimes.

Just don’t get silly and purist about your standards. Folks trying to go straight need all the help they can get.

California Public Health has declared a Whooping Cough epidemic

California is being hit hard with a whooping cough epidemic, according to the state’s public health department, with 800 cases reported in the past two weeks alone…The agency says that there were 3,458 whooping cough cases reported between January 1 and June 10, well ahead of the number of cases reported for all of 2013.

This is a problem of “epidemic proportions,” the department said. And the number of actual cases may be even higher, because past studies have shown that for every case of whooping cough that is reported, there are 10 more that are not officially counted.

Whooping cough, known to doctors as pertussis, is a highly contagious respiratory infection that is caused by a bacterium known as Bordetella pertussis…The popular name for the disease comes from the whooping sound an infected person makes when gasping for breath after a coughing fit.

The bacteria spreads through coughing and sneezing. One person can infect up to 15 people nearby, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Typically symptoms appear an average of seven to 10 days after exposure.

Infants and young children are more vulnerable to the disease than other age groups. It can be particularly dangerous for babies. About half of the infants who get whooping cough end up in a hospital. Some cases are fatal.

That’s why the public health department in California is strongly urging people to make sure their vaccinations are up to date, especially if they’re pregnant. State health officials are working closely with schools and local health departments to spread the word.

“Unlike some other vaccine-preventable diseases like measles, neither vaccination nor illness from pertussis offers lifetime immunity,” Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the California Department of Public Health, said in a statement. “However, vaccination is still the best defense against the potentially fatal diseases.”

Nationally, more than 90% of children get the first three doses of the vaccine, but far fewer get the Tdap booster.

California has historically had higher vaccination rates than other states, but a recent study found large clusters of parents who did not vaccinate their children close to areas with a large number of whooping cough cases during the 2010 California outbreak.

The current outbreak is too new for scientists to know if there is a similar pattern.

We’re back to the usual choice of answers between stupid or ignorant. In states like California or here in New Mexico, we deal with large numbers of immigrants, legal or otherwise, who haven’t anymore understanding of vaccination than they do birth control or reproductive rights. That’s the ignorant portion.

Then, we must confront parents who read on the Internet or heard from equally unqualified sources that vaccination is what causes illness. They aren’t going to look up relevant statistics at the CDC or talk to a for-real doctor. Sorry, but, that’s stupid. That doesn’t even get you up to the 20th Century.

Five maps of America’s drought conditions

Half of the mainland United States is facing drier-than-usual conditions, with 15 percent of the country experiencing “extreme” to “exceptional” drought. That in itself is far from unprecedented (it happened in 2012 and 2013, for starters) but it’s a significant event.

The real problem, though, is in California, which is facing one of its worst dry spells on record — every single part of the state is now facing “severe” drought or worse. Dry conditions may be one reason why large wildfires are breaking out in California a few weeks earlier than usual. The drought is also hurting the state’s crucial agricultural sector.

Droughts are hardly new in US history, and they’ve been a regular feature of the West for many, many years. But the current drought in California is serious even by historical standards.

RTFA for illustrations and description of the national turn to the worse our land has taken. Yes, special emphasis is on the source of much of our food in California – appropriately. But, the whole nation faces potential disaster.

That this happens within the context of rightwing nutballs in charge of half of Congress – and obstructing the whole – makes life and the cost of living more likely to face a death spiral of thumb-twiddling.

Oil spill in heart of Los Angeles shuts down neighborhood


Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Thousands of gallons of crude oil spilled over a half-mile area in Los Angeles on Thursday due to a break in an above-ground Plains West Coast pipeline, the city fire department said.

The spill was 10,000 US gallons, according to Jamie Moore, a public information officer with the Los Angeles Fire Department…The cleanup was under way this morning, with crews vacuuming up most of the crude.

Four people at a nearby business were evacuated with respiratory complaints, and two people were transferred to a hospital…

The pipeline was shut off remotely, and the incident shut down a section of the Atwater Village area of the city…

“Oil is knee-high in some areas,” the fire department said. “A handful of commercial businesses are affected.”

The break in the 20-inch pipeline was at a pumping station in an industrial area near San Fernando Road in Atwater Village, the fire department said.

The pressure was so high and the volume of oil pushed through was so large that the oil didn’t stop rushing from the broken pipeline for 45 minutes.

Video footage from the NBC affiliate showed oil spraying about 20 feet in the air from the leak, which happened at an oil-gathering station situated next to a strip club, The Gentlemen’s Club, which was evacuated, according to media reports…

The Plains West Coast pipeline is run by Plains Pipeline L.P., a unit of Plains All American. A company spokesman did not immediately return a call outside normal business hours…

L.A. Battalion Chief David Spence told local television that the line ran from California’s main oil-producing region near Bakersfield to a storage facility in Long Beach, near a cluster of refineries including those run by Phillips 66, Valero and Tesoro…

I worked in and around the oil industry for a long enough spell to generally respect the safety of most pipelines, long-or-short-haul. I’m beginning to wonder about the quality and frequency of inspections – given the number of reported failures we’re getting to. Because the folks up top know damned well what the dangers are. Do they have accountants and lobbyists on board offering assurances about the cost of disasters, nowadays?

Thanks, Mike