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  • Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman will Screen at Commodity Classic
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  • New Bill Could Spell 100 Percent Renewable Future for California
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  • Texas Should Get Its Head in the New Solar Market Game

    By Kate Zerrenner

    What would a world powered by clean, low-water energy look like? If you visit Israel’s southern region, you don’t have to imagine.

    In 2011, Arava Power in the southern Israeli desert launched a 4.9 MW solar field (enough to power more than 3,000 U.S. homes). Since then nearly 200 times as much capacity – both fields and rooftops – has been installed in the region. By 2025, it’s likely solar will provide 100 percent of daytime electricity, plus excess, along the border with Jordan.

    With solar technology more advanced and cheaper than ever, solar power can take off quickly in Texas, as it has in Israel.

    The Arava Desert, where many of Israel’s solar fields are located, averages about 360 days of sunshine per year. Austin, where I live, averages about 300 days per year, and it’s not even as sunny as West Texas. But in January 2016, solar provided just 0.4 percent of power across the vast majority of the state. There is huge opportunity for solar growth in Texas.

    Rapid solar growth

    A renewable energy testbed of sorts, researchers at the Eilat Eilot Renewable Energy Initiative in the middle of the Arava are developing roads that wirelessly charge electric city buses, drones to clean the dust off desert solar panels, and electric scooters for commuting that can be plugged into any outlet.


    Texas should get its head in the new solar market game
    Click To Tweet


    This hub of activity has grown around Israel’s burgeoning solar industry, drawing innovators and building a community as a result. Just a few years ago, solar energy was practically non-existent there. Now nearly 20,000 panels provide 70 percent of the daytime electricity from the Dead Sea to Eilat, a port and resort city in southern Israel.

    Further, the Ashalim project in the Negev Desert will next year complete four fields using different solar technologies, including one that will store solar power for nighttime use. The project aims to provide 1.6 percent of Israel’s power, more than half of the country’s current renewable generation. This will help the country reach its 10 percent renewable energy by 2020 goal, a giant step up from its current 2.5 percent.

    Texas, like Israel, is ripe with solar potential, especially in the dry, hot west. Plus, we have no shortage of innovators, like in tech-hub Austin and oil and gas-capital Houston. By embracing our sunny days and prioritizing solar development, it’s easy to envision building innovative communities around solar development, while creating jobs, boosting the economy, and saving water.

    Above, solar panels in the Arava desert. Kate Zerrenner on an electric scooter at the Eilat Eilot Renewable Energy Intiative.

    Solar economy and jobs

    Beyond requiring virtually no water to create energy (unlike traditional fossil fuels), new solar jobs and income are a boon to the economy.

    Typically reliant on dates, dairy farming, and tourism, southern Israeli communities like the Eilat Eilot Institute support a range of jobs, from solar development to implementation to maintenance. In fact, according to the institute’s director, schools, cafes, and other amenities are being built to serve the growing community.

    It’s not hard to imagine that type of job hub here. According to the Solar Foundation’s recently-released census, Texas is now home to the third-highest number of solar jobs. The Lone Star State’s solar job market also saw an impressive 34 percent growth in 2016.

    Working with natural gas

    In 2009, Israel discovered natural gas reserves, shifting some of the earlier focus on solar development toward natural gas. Texas also has vast natural gas resources, but it doesn’t have to be an either-or situation. If we have both solar and gas potential, shouldn’t we maximize both?

    The gas industry could be working hand in hand with the solar industry – together, as the new energy industry – to increase energy independence and security. For instance, in an ideal scenario, all of Israel could be powered by homegrown resources – solar in the day and gas at night. Texas can use a balance of solar, wind, and natural gas, rather than coal imported from other states, to meet everyone’s power needs.

    Barriers

    To activate the solar revolution, the bureaucratic hoops to jump through in Israel were immense. The Arava Power Company had to work through 24 different government offices, win about 100 political, regulatory, and statutory battles, and prove the concept with facts on the ground. Yet much of the work has already been done to clear the way for solar in Texas. We already have some proof of concept and fewer levels of bureaucracy, but there is still resistance.

    "The sun is not lazy here. She shows up to work every day."

    So, what is holding the Lone Star State back? It often boils down to politics. The sun doesn’t care which party you belong to, and it’s available across much of Texas, just waiting for us to tap its power. Plus, the majority of Texas voters from both sides of the aisle support increasing the use of clean energy. Solar also doesn’t need water to create electricity and, with an ever-expanding population, saving water in Texas should be in the interest of all policymakers.

    The director of the Eilat Eilot center told me, “The sun is not lazy here. She shows up to work every day.” Texas should put politics aside and take advantage of this tireless worker, creating more jobs and growing the economy.

    The latest Texas solar job numbers cited above are a solid start, but California’s solar industry has more than 10 times as many jobs, even though Texas’ solar potential outshines California’s by a margin of four to one. Texas has always been the U.S. leader in energy production. Isn’t it past time that we get our heads in the new solar market game?

    Editor’s note: Kate was a guest of Vibe Israel, a non-profit organization leading a tour called Vibe Eco Impact in December 2016, which explores sustainability initiatives in Israel.

    Photo source: Shani Sadicari

    This post originally appeared on our Energy Exchange blog

    Read more »
  • Texas Should Get Its Head in the New Solar Market Game

    By Kate Zerrenner

    What would a world powered by clean, low-water energy look like? If you visit Israel’s southern region, you don’t have to imagine.

    In 2011, Arava Power in the southern Israeli desert launched a 4.9 MW solar field (enough to power more than 3,000 U.S. homes). Since then nearly 200 times as much capacity – both fields and rooftops – has been installed in the region. By 2025, it’s likely solar will provide 100 percent of daytime electricity, plus excess, along the border with Jordan.

    With solar technology more advanced and cheaper than ever, solar power can take off quickly in Texas, as it has in Israel.

    The Arava Desert, where many of Israel’s solar fields are located, averages about 360 days of sunshine per year. Austin, where I live, averages about 300 days per year, and it’s not even as sunny as West Texas. But in January 2016, solar provided just 0.4 percent of power across the vast majority of the state. There is huge opportunity for solar growth in Texas.

    Rapid solar growth

    A renewable energy testbed of sorts, researchers at the Eilat Eilot Renewable Energy Initiative in the middle of the Arava are developing roads that wirelessly charge electric city buses, drones to clean the dust off desert solar panels, and electric scooters for commuting that can be plugged into any outlet.


    Texas should get its head in the new solar market game
    Click To Tweet


    This hub of activity has grown around Israel’s burgeoning solar industry, drawing innovators and building a community as a result. Just a few years ago, solar energy was practically non-existent there. Now nearly 20,000 panels provide 70 percent of the daytime electricity from the Dead Sea to Eilat, a port and resort city in southern Israel.

    Further, the Ashalim project in the Negev Desert will next year complete four fields using different solar technologies, including one that will store solar power for nighttime use. The project aims to provide 1.6 percent of Israel’s power, more than half of the country’s current renewable generation. This will help the country reach its 10 percent renewable energy by 2020 goal, a giant step up from its current 2.5 percent.

    Texas, like Israel, is ripe with solar potential, especially in the dry, hot west. Plus, we have no shortage of innovators, like in tech-hub Austin and oil and gas-capital Houston. By embracing our sunny days and prioritizing solar development, it’s easy to envision building innovative communities around solar development, while creating jobs, boosting the economy, and saving water.

    Above, solar panels in the Arava desert. Kate Zerrenner on an electric scooter at the Eilat Eilot Renewable Energy Intiative.

    Solar economy and jobs

    Beyond requiring virtually no water to create energy (unlike traditional fossil fuels), new solar jobs and income are a boon to the economy.

    Typically reliant on dates, dairy farming, and tourism, southern Israeli communities like the Eilat Eilot Institute support a range of jobs, from solar development to implementation to maintenance. In fact, according to the institute’s director, schools, cafes, and other amenities are being built to serve the growing community.

    It’s not hard to imagine that type of job hub here. According to the Solar Foundation’s recently-released census, Texas is now home to the third-highest number of solar jobs. The Lone Star State’s solar job market also saw an impressive 34 percent growth in 2016.

    Working with natural gas

    In 2009, Israel discovered natural gas reserves, shifting some of the earlier focus on solar development toward natural gas. Texas also has vast natural gas resources, but it doesn’t have to be an either-or situation. If we have both solar and gas potential, shouldn’t we maximize both?

    The gas industry could be working hand in hand with the solar industry – together, as the new energy industry – to increase energy independence and security. For instance, in an ideal scenario, all of Israel could be powered by homegrown resources – solar in the day and gas at night. Texas can use a balance of solar, wind, and natural gas, rather than coal imported from other states, to meet everyone’s power needs.

    Barriers

    To activate the solar revolution, the bureaucratic hoops to jump through in Israel were immense. The Arava Power Company had to work through 24 different government offices, win about 100 political, regulatory, and statutory battles, and prove the concept with facts on the ground. Yet much of the work has already been done to clear the way for solar in Texas. We already have some proof of concept and fewer levels of bureaucracy, but there is still resistance.

    "The sun is not lazy here. She shows up to work every day."

    So, what is holding the Lone Star State back? It often boils down to politics. The sun doesn’t care which party you belong to, and it’s available across much of Texas, just waiting for us to tap its power. Plus, the majority of Texas voters from both sides of the aisle support increasing the use of clean energy. Solar also doesn’t need water to create electricity and, with an ever-expanding population, saving water in Texas should be in the interest of all policymakers.

    The director of the Eilat Eilot center told me, “The sun is not lazy here. She shows up to work every day.” Texas should put politics aside and take advantage of this tireless worker, creating more jobs and growing the economy.

    The latest Texas solar job numbers cited above are a solid start, but California’s solar industry has more than 10 times as many jobs, even though Texas’ solar potential outshines California’s by a margin of four to one. Texas has always been the U.S. leader in energy production. Isn’t it past time that we get our heads in the new solar market game?

    Editor’s note: Kate was a guest of Vibe Israel, a non-profit organization leading a tour called Vibe Eco Impact in December 2016, which explores sustainability initiatives in Israel.

    Photo source: Shani Sadicari

    Read more »
  • Looking to the States to Improve Natural Gas Storage Policies

    By Adam Peltz

    Stories about gas storage rarely make headlines, but the fact is there are hundreds of underground natural gas storage facilities peppered across the country, and when something goes wrong, the impacts can be devastating. For example, in 2015 a leak at the Aliso Canyon storage facility in Southern California ended up displacing thousands from their homes and was considered one of the biggest environmental disasters in modern U.S. history.

    Historically, state agencies have been responsible for regulating these facilities – resulting in a patchwork of protections. But after Aliso Canyon, the federal government stepped in to provide uniform safety standards applicable across the country.

    The Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration recently issued  rules are designed to prevent similar disasters from happening elsewhere. The rules are welcome in that they provide a regulatory floor for the more than 400 storage facilities across the country.  However, in the current political climate, it’s unclear whether PHMSA will be fully resourced to properly enforce and continuously develop these new safety standards.

    EDF submitted comments on the new rules, providing ideas for improving the rule and the way it is implemented. In many respects, the states can provide models and material assistance to PHMSA to enhance regulation of this critical piece of our energy infrastructure.

    Here are four ways PHMSA should look to state expertise to help make gas storage safer.

    Let state rules apply when they are stronger than federal rules

    While PHMSA’s rules apply a national regulatory baseline for all gas storage facilities, they may at the same time weaken existing state policies for some facilities. Where state rules are stronger than PHMSA policies, the agency should let those policies set the standard for all the wells in those states, instead of creating a two-tiered system with some wells governed by lower federal standards and others by higher state standards as is currently envisioned. PHMSA’s rules should work as a floor and not a ceiling, and states that wish to go beyond federal standards should be able to do so fully.

    Guidance from state regulators can cure “terminal vagueness”

    One of the biggest problems with PHMSA’s gas storage rule is that it essentially copies guidelines originally written by the American Petroleum Institute, guidelines that were never actually meant to serve as regulations. In fact, the language is so vague as to render compliance trivial to achieve in many cases. For example, the policy requires operators to reduce facility risk, but there is no guidance as to how much risk needs to be reduced – so as written, any amount of risk reduction would be sufficient.

    State policies show what works, what doesn’t

    The Aliso Canyon gas leak taught us a lot about what does and doesn’t work when it comes to effectively managing our gas storage facilities, and California has since been updating its policies accordingly.

    One key improvement California regulators are proposing is in the area of risk management and rule variances. There, operators have to submit customized risk management and alternative compliance that regulators must approve prior to their implementation. This helps operators better understand what they are accountable for if something goes wrong.

    PHMSA’s policies don’t currently follow this model. But they should. Currently, risk management plans and rule variances submitted to PHMSA will only be reviewed after they have already been implemented. This creates a situation where operators can essentially pick and choose what rules to follow, and is problematic for the public because, as we learned from Aliso Canyon, certain operational shortcuts can lead to a disaster. It’s also problematic for the industry because it puts the operators at risk of penalty and lost revenue if the agency rejects those choices.

    Operators can respond to nearly any regulatory condition except for regulatory uncertainty – which is why California is moving in this direction. By following California’s lead, PHMSA can increase regulatory certainty for operators and public oversight at the same time.

    In a world of limited resources, states can plug federal holes

    When it comes to natural gas, PHMSA’s experience has primarily been focused on preventing pipeline leaks and explosions. But storage facilities are a different animal, requiring different expertise. Unfortunately with the federal hiring freeze, the agency is unlikely to get those resources any time soon.

    Again, states that have been effectively regulating gas storage for decades can offer help. States have engineering and field staff with the precise expertise and the local knowledge that PHMSA lacks, and are among the best resources to which PHMSA has access.

    Data systems are good example of state resources available to PHMSA. These systems allow regulators to optimize their programs and prioritize risks, and also provide the public with access to critical information. Many states have developed a data system that covers gas storage called the Risk-Based Data Management System (which was jointly developed and is currently used by the majority of oil and gas states).

    If PHMSA adopts this inexpensive state-developed software, the agency can cost-effectively increase its capacity to properly oversee these policies.

    Work it out together

    PHMSA officials have indicated they plan to improve the gas storage regulatory framework over time. The agency has its own homework and legwork to do, but learning from and coordinating with the states will help make the process faster and smoother. These are essential steps toward ensuring a safer, more secure future for our natural gas infrastructure.

    Read more »
  • Lowering Desalination’s Energy Footprint: Lessons from Israel

    By Kate Zerrenner

    Kate Zerrenner and Leon Kaye of Triple Pundit tasting desalinated water at Sorek.

    There’s an old expression that whisky is for drinking and water is for fighting over. The Legislative Session is upon us again in Texas, and count on water being an issue, as it always is in this drought and flood-prone state.

    To start, this Session will see the approval of the 2017 State Water Plan (SWP), which is done in five-year cycles. In the five years since the last plan, Texas has gone from the throes of a devastating drought to historic flooding, which resulted in some reservoirs being full for the first time in 15 years.

    Moreover, as more people move to Texas and climate change advances, there will be greater strain on the state’s water supplies. According to the SWP, Texas is already in a tighter situation than it was just five years ago: Surface water and groundwater availability will be 5 percent lower in 2060 compared to predictions in the 2012 plan, and existing water supplies are expected to drop by 11 percent between 2020 and 2070. Where are we supposed to get the water we need?

    One place we could look to for ideas is Israel, which relies heavily on desalination – or the process of removing salt from water – to meet its needs. During Session, there will likely be calls to implement and fund desalination projects in Texas, which can help ensure water supplies in the future. But we need to take a page from Israel’s book, and create plans and policies that are thoughtful about reducing the technology’s energy footprint.

    Cutting desal costs in Israel

    Sixty percent of Israel is desert, and the rest is semiarid. (Texas, in comparison, is about 10 percent desert.) The harsh, dry climate means ensuring water supplies is a top priority, and as a result Israel gets up to 75 percent of its potable water from desalination. To put that into perspective, the entire state of Texas currently produces about 123 million gallons per day with desalination, or roughly 465,606 cubic meters per day. The Sorek Desalination Plant outside Tel Aviv, one of many in the country, alone produces about 624,000 cubic meters per day/ 164 MGD.


    Lowering Desalination’s Energy Footprint: Lessons from Israel
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    I recently toured the Sorek plant, the largest desal plant in the world, which provides about 20 percent of Israel’s potable water. One of the things that struck me, other than the sheer size, was how energy was a front-and-center concern. Since desal plants need constant power – and a lot of it – energy is by far the most expensive part of running the plant. Groundwater desal is highly energy-intensive, and seawater even more so – power is estimated at about half of seawater desal plants’ entire operating costs.

    Kate Zerrenner and Leon Kaye of Triple Pundit standing in a desalination pipe at Sorek.

    Three tactics help ease these costs and maintain plant reliability:

    • On-site power generation: Two of the other biggest plants in Israel are located next to power plants, which means less energy lost during transmission and distribution, as well as greater reliability. One of those, Hadera, is located near a gas-fired power plant, which requires significantly less water than coal. Israel could further cut desal’s water footprint by installing no-water resources like wind turbines or solar panels on-site, as Texas is trying to do.
    • Energy efficiency: Israel is home to the two most energy-efficient desal facilities in the world: Hadera and Sorek, respectively. Sorek looks to reduce its energy consumption at every step of the process, like its energy recovery system, which captures energy from the brine stream that would have otherwise been wasted and uses it to power pumps. Unfortunately, U.S. desal plants tend to be behind the tech curve because the approval process takes so long. With a robust, more streamlined approvals process and newer technology, American plants could maximize efficiency as Israel does.
    • Taking advantage of smart pricing: Israel has variable electricity rates, meaning they change depending on the season, day of the week, and time of day. Sorek negotiated a lower electricity rate in exchange for participating in the demand response program – in this case, agreeing to do the most production at night when both electric demand and prices are lower. In fact, Sorek was built to be responsive to peak demand: It can change its operating capacity from 30 to 120-percent production in less than five minutes, in response to the electricity rate. Moreover, by enabling customers to alter their energy-use based on peak demand and pricing, Israel’s entire electric grid benefits from greater stability. Leveraging demand response could help desalination in Texas and other states that deal with drought, like California, be more energy- and water-efficient.

    Desal in Texas

    So, what does all this mean for Texas? In his recent book, Let There Be Water, Seth M. Siegel writes about how native Texan Lyndon B. Johnson shared former Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion’s approach to water. Ben-Gurion saw the promise of desal and LBJ seemed to view the technology as the future for ensuring America’s water supplies, especially in dry areas like his own beloved Texas Hill Country. Today, Texas is home to the largest inland desal facility in the world, the Kay Bailey Hutchison Desalination Plant

    "Desalination is turning the water issue from a zero-sum game to a win-win."

    LBJ may have been the first Texas proponent of desal, but he certainly is not the last. IDE, the company behind Sorek (and the new Carlsbad facility in San Diego), opened an office in Austin a few years ago to look for potential sites in the state. Further, Governor Greg Abbott, recently paid a visit to Sorek, and many legislators who understand the importance of safeguarding water supplies are supportive of desal.

    In the SWP 2017, about 2.7 percent of the proposed supply strategies are for desalination. That’s a relatively small percentage, but it translates to a giant energy footprint. When it comes to desal, Texas leaders need to understand that using low-water energy sources like solar and wind is important, energy efficiency is critical, and having smart energy policy that supports a more flexible grid – like Israel’s variable pricing – rounds it out.

    As Texas embarks on another round of figuring out how to solve our water woes, we could take a lesson from Israel. The country has figured out how to maximize desalination’s potential, while minimizing its energy footprint. As Uri Ginott of EcoPeace Middle East said, “Desalination is turning the water issue from a zero-sum game to a win-win. Every drop doesn’t have to come at the expense of another.” When we live in a typically dry place that’s only expected to get drier, being comprehensive about our water solutions sets us all up to win.

    Editor’s note: Kate was a guest of Vibe Israel, a non-profit organization leading a tour called Vibe Eco Impact in December 2016, which explores sustainability initiatives in Israel.

    Read more »
  • How will a sediment diversion affect the coastal environment? The answer lies in the operations.

    Sediment diversions have long been proposed as an essential component in every major restoration plan in coastal Louisiana. Sediment diversions are man-made structures built directly into the Mississippi River levee system with gates that can be opened and closed to allow sediment, fresh water and nutrients to nourish and revive the dying wetlands. In the “Answering 10 Fundamental Questions about the Mississippi River Delta” report, scientists clearly demonstrated that sediment diversions are the most effective tool to build and sustain ...

    The post How will a sediment diversion affect the coastal environment? The answer lies in the operations. appeared first on Restore the Mississippi River Delta.

    Read more »
  • New Study Highlights Need for California Market Refinements to Better Harness Clean Energy

    By Simi George

    A new study, jointly conducted by the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) – the entity responsible for overseeing much of California’s electric grid – First Solar, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), demonstrates the untapped potential of utility-scale solar. The study shows that utility-scale solar can provide key services needed to ensure electric grid stability and reliability – better known as ancillary services – at levels comparable to conventional, fossil fuel driven resources.

    California needs to reduce reliance on natural gas for ancillary services

    In CAISO’s market, ancillary services are overwhelmingly provided by natural gas-fired resources, and their share of the pie has been increasing in recent years.

    This growing reliance on natural gas for ancillary services merits attention for many reasons.  

    • There are significant environmental benefits to greater participation of clean energy resources in the provision of ancillary services. This is particularly relevant to California, given its ambitious greenhouse gas reduction goals.
    • Increased participation by clean energy resources in ancillary service markets can increase supply of these services, benefit end users via reduced production costs, and provide additional revenue streams to these resources. Allowing all resources capable of providing ancillary services to compete on an equal footing with conventional resources is a pre-requisite for a competitive market.

    As renewables penetration increases, so will the need for ancillary services

    The findings of the new CAISO- First Solar-NREL study have significant implications for the integration of all renewables (not just solar) on California’s grid. California’s renewable portfolio standard mandates that at least 50% of electric generation be driven by renewables by 2030. Given their inherent variability, as more renewables come online, grid operators will need additional ancillary services to ensure grid stability.

    In particular, we are likely to see steep increases in ramping needs in the afternoon and evening hours, driven by mid-day solar generation. Solar generation in the middle of the day leads to a drop in net electricity demand, followed by a sharp increase in the afternoon/evening, as people come home from work and school, switch on their lights and appliances, and solar generation falls with the setting sun. This is reflected in the “duck curve” (see figure below) which underscores the need for flexible resources, that are capable of quickly responding to sudden fluctuations in renewable output.

    Net Load on CAISO System (projected through 2020). Source: CAISO, “What the duck curve tells us about managing a green grid”, 2016

    CAISO has an ancillary services scarcity pricing mechanism that is triggered when it is unable to procure the targeted quantity of one or more ancillary services. In 2015, CAISO experienced its first ancillary service scarcity event, signaling a mismatch between the demand and supply of ancillary services.

    Next steps

    To follow up on the study, CAISO plans to identify barriers to the provision of grid services by renewables and explore incentives to harness this potential. This is a welcome next step. Because of the unique characteristics of clean energy resources, there are challenges to their participation in ancillary services markets. What’s more, these markets were not designed keeping renewable resources in mind.

    Studies such as the CAISO-NREL-First Solar joint study demonstrate that renewables can provide essential grid reliability services needed to support the transition to a cleaner grid. Now, the challenge is to develop the market design features that will allow California to harness these capabilities.

    Image source: Ken Kistler

    Read more »
  • North Carolina Water Planners Have New Way to Protect Rivers and Streams
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  • Smart Reforms Key to Global Fish Recovery, Even with Climate Change
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