Region by region, switch to renewable energy continues

Tri-State Generation and Transmission, the power supplier for Southwest Colorado, announced Wednesday it plans to build solar arrays in the region as part of a larger plan to replace coal-fired power plants in Colorado and New Mexico.

Tri-State announced last week it plans to close the Escalante Station near Prewitt, New Mexico, by the end of 2020 and the Craig Station and Colowyo Mine in northwest Colorado by 2030. The move will eliminate Tri-State’s coal emissions in both states.

To help replace the power produced by those plants, Tri-State plans to build eight new solar and wind projects by 2024, enough to power more than 800,000 homes, Tri-State CEO Duane Highley said. The projects will increase the percentage of renewable power consumed by Tri-State customers from about 33% to 50% by 2024.

The transition is expected to drive lower rates for customers because the price of renewable power has fallen by 85% in 10 years and is cheaper than any form of fossil fuel, he said. He described the savings as a “green-energy dividend” that will also allow Tri-State to pay off its coal-power plants on an accelerated timetable…

Way too much good sense at play here for the clown show in Congress and the White House. Can you imagine for-real leadership away from polluting 19th Century technology and into renewable energy sources coming from either of the two old parties?

Cloud seeding helping to get more water for the West

A researcher with the Colorado Water Conservation Board says cloud seeding in southwestern Colorado is helping to squeeze more water out of passing snowstorms, using heaters that vaporize silver iodide to form artificial ice.

In southwest Colorado, workers light generators that look like large propane tanks, shooting flames into pans that send vaporized silver iodide up to the base of clouds. There, the silver iodide forms an artificial ice crystal that draws in more water, forming larger snowflakes. Then they fall to the ground…

Researchers say a study in Wyoming conducted from 2005 to 2014 found cloud seeding can add 5 to 15 percent more precipitation.

Eric Hjermstad, co-owner and director of field operations for Western Weather Consultants, which does cloud seeding, said every bit of water helps the parched Southwest.

Hjermstad said seeding helps build snowpack to replenish aquifers and helps fill reservoirs such as Lake Powell for other Western states struggling to find water.

One Durango city councilor contributed a factoid – in a manner that added nothing to the discussion. That is – cloud seeding doesn’t add to the capacity of clouds to dispense water. If you get extra in one place, you get less elsewhere. He was worried about the Navajo Nation. But, he was in Durango – which is East of most of the Navajo Nation.

The prevailing winds in the Southwest flow west to east. There is a certain amount of variation from weather fronts pressing southward; but, again, they’re already past most of the Diné. Certainly this would prove useful here in New Mexico for regions still facing drought. If we didn’t have a governor owned lock, stock and barrel by the Oil Patch Boys we might have a chance to try this ourselves.

And once storm clouds get east of New Mexico they’re mostly over plains that ain’t especially short of water. I have friends in Texas who wish we’d stop sending ’em storms. 🙂

World’s highest cable-stay bridge opens in Mexico

Mexican President Felipe Calderon has inaugurated the world’s highest cable-stayed bridge. The 1,321ft tall Baluarte bridge spans a deep ravine in the Sierra Madre Occidental mountains in the north. It is part of a new highway crossing some of Mexico’s most rugged terrain, from Mazatlan on the Pacific Coast to Durango in the interior. The cable-stayed bridge is so tall that the Eiffel Tower would easily fit under its central span.

“This project will unite the people of northern Mexico as never before,” President Calderon said at the inauguration ceremony. Officials from the Guinness World of Records were on hand to present him with an award recognising the engineering feat.

The opening of the 3,687ft long bridge is part of celebrations to mark 200 years of Mexico’s independence from Spain. It is expected to open to traffic later this year, and Mexican officials hope it will boost tourism and commerce in the region.

The Mazatlan-Durango highway replaces a notoriously dangerous winding road known as the “Devil’s backbone” that crosses the jagged peaks of the Sierra Madre Occidental. As well as Baluarte, there will be eight other bridges over 300m high, as well as more than 60 tunnels.

Officials say it will reduce the journey between Mazatlan and Durango by about six hours. Eventually, it will form part of a modern highway linking the Pacific and Atlantic coasts.

As the highest cable-stayed bridge in the world, it surpasses the famous Millau Viaduct in France.

I hope someone made a documentary about this bridge’s construction. There was a terrific film – I saw it on Discovery TV – on the new tech used to build the Millau Viaduct.

There may not have been much new engineering in the building of this cable-stay bridge; but, the “OOPS” factor was outstanding.y

Mexican cartels open new front in drug war

Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

Drug gangs have forced open a bloody new front in Mexico’s drugs war, extending their battles over smuggling routes into a formerly quiet northwestern state and further stretching the army.

A fight for control of the mountainous state of Durango has killed some 235 people this year, a jump in violence that poses a new challenge to troops already struggling to contain bloodshed along the U.S. border. With only a few hundred soldiers in Durango, drug hitmen from eastern Mexico are taking over towns, kidnapping police, shooting up local government offices and slaughtering rivals.

It poses a fresh threat to President Felipe Calderon, who has staked his reputation on pushing back the cartels, and could fuel U.S. concerns that violence is overwhelming its southern neighbor…

The outbreak of violence in Durango also marks a new challenge to top drug fugitive Joaquin “Shorty” Guzman on a formerly quiet patch of his home turf in northwestern Mexico.

Officials and analysts say Guzman, who has long been battling rivals in other parts of the country, is being attacked in Durango by the Gulf cartel and its brutal “Zetas” armed wing as they fan out from their base in northeastern Mexico, near Texas…

But the killings in Durango may be a sign of how hard it is to crush drug gangs as military pressure in one region drives organized crime into less guarded areas. Durango’s Oliveria Reza calls it “the cockroach effect.”

Before retiring I occasionally worked with a few terrific young guys, brothers, from Durango. Hard-working, honest, you could count on them for any job. Every holiday they would car pool with friends and head back to Durango for a short stay – because, after all, that was home. They loved Durango.

Last time we bumped into each other the oldest brother asked if he could use me as a reference in his application for citizenship in the United States. Even though he loved Durango, he decided it’s time to get his extended family away from there – to someplace safe.

I’m not certain a reference from someone who’s spent so much of his life opposing reactionary U.S. politics is useful – but, of course, I agreed. He would be a positive addition to any country.