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Patrick Mazza's Posts

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Blacking out the wild blue yonder

DOD panel calls out power grid disruption threat

Here's another good reason to fix a shaky and outdated power grid, from the Defense Science Board: keeping the Air Force flying during the next terrorist attack. The military focuses much of its efforts on avoiding global petroleum disruptions. But it has not thought much about power grid disruptions that could affect its own bases, the Department of Defense (DOD) group says in a report authored by former Defense Secretary James Schlesinger The board says "physical or cyber sabotage -- or even a simple capacity overload -- could devastate U.S. military and homeland security installations and have a frightening ripple …

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Smart grid to rock Boulder

City selected for largest U.S. smart grid project

When Xcel Energy announced a few days ago that it had selected Boulder, Colo. as "the nation's first fully integrated Smart Grid City," it represented a vitally important step toward creating a low-carbon energy network. Photo: Aidan M. Grey Xcel previously announced its intention to stage the largest and most comprehensive deployment of smart grid technologies in the U.S. ever, and now it says it has targeted Boulder for a several-year effort that will cost up to $100 million. The aim at a comprehensive system is precisely what makes this a breakthrough. Smart grid technologies exhibit the classic network effect. …

Read more: Climate & Energy

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As nations trail behind ...

States and provinces lead on climate initiatives

"State and regional governments around the world ... are fast becoming an essential and effective part of the movement to combat climate change," says The Climate Group in a new report. "Low Carbon Leader: States and Regions" (PDF) profiles 12 exemplars including California, which in 2006 enacted the first economy-wide cap on carbon emissions in the U.S., and Northeast states moving to implement the first U.S. carbon cap-and-trade system. The report notes that U.S. states, ranked individually among other nations, represent 34 of the world's 75 leading global warming pollution sources. California ranks 12th. Subnational governments have critical roles to …

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Under pressure

E.U. considers pollution charges on imports from U.S. and other climate scofflaws

U.S. failure to enact limits on global warming emissions could cost American companies that export to the European Union. E.U. President Jose Manuel Barroso on Sunday said the European Commission is considering a charge on importers from nations without carbon limits. Companies from those countries may be required to buy carbon emissions allowances on exports into the E.U. This is intended to level the playing field with European companies who are already part of the European Emissions Trading System instituted to meet E.U. obligations under the Kyoto climate treaty. Barroso said the Commission could "require importers to obtain allowances (emissions …

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A smarter, thriftier grid

Field test documents big consumer savings

A Northwest field test of smart-grid technologies has documented tremendous potential to run a grid that delivers power far more economically by controlling peak demand. The Pacific Northwest GridWise Demonstration Project has just announced the results of their year-long test, which included two pieces: On the Olympic Peninsula of Washington, 112 homes, three onsite generation units and municipal water pumps were equipped with automated systems that allowed them to adjust grid power demand in response to price signals. Appliances embedded with microchips capable of automatically responding to grid power fluctuations were placed at 150 homes in Washington and Oregon. The …

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Climate change and flooded freeways

Climate disruption comes home to the Northwest

In the late 1990s, after pineapple express storms caused severe flooding and deadly mudslides across the Northwest, National Climatic Data Center Chief Scientist Thomas Karl said the storms were "an example of the type of weather patterns that would be expected to become more frequent and yield an increase in precipitation extremes as the climate continues to warm." Welcome to the future. The Northwest was fire-hosed again in recent days, flooding communities and leaving them in the dark throughout western Washington state, while cutting I-5 from Portland to Seattle, and rail service to boot. As of today, a lengthy detour …

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The mother of all green jobs fact sheets

A great summary of recent studies on green jobs

Clean energy, a job-creation engine already generating impressive performance, will rev up to even higher levels in coming years. A comprehensive new fact sheet (PDF) from the Environmental and Energy Study Institute strongly documents these trends with capsule summaries of dozens of recent studies on the topic. In the last several years, numerous studies have validated the emergence of renewable energy and energy efficiency as a major new economic and employment driver. EESI -- a Washington, D.C.-based think tank that educates Capitol Hill on energy issues and the general public on energy legislation -- has created this invaluable fact sheet …

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Adventures in the smart grid no. 3

Who will lead on advancing smart-grid technologies?

To bring on the amounts of variable wind and solar energy and plug-in vehicles needed to meet our vast energy challenges, we will need a smart grid capable of managing much more complex power flows. Outside of some progressive exemplars, however, don't expect leadership to come from the utility sector. Instead, changes will be forced by new policies and players, including some you might not expect, like big box retailers. Those were my key takeaways from the stellar line-up of smart grid speakers at the Discover Brilliant sustainable technology conference in Seattle this week. David has been blogging away from …

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Real-life smart grid adventure

Keeping the air conditioners running in muggy Pennsylvania

Just back from visiting the family in Pennsylvania, where temperatures were hitting the high 90s. It was the kind of sticky, muggy, oppressively hot weather that reminds me why I live in the cool corner that is the Pacific Northwest. As air conditioners were blasting away everywhere and lights were flickering, I was thinking that grid operators must be calling on every demand-response resource they could. Back into post-vacation action, I came across an Aug. 10 release [PDF] from PJM Interconnect that confirmed it. The power grid was on emergency status and PJM, in fact, drew a record demand response …

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Adventures in the smart grid no. 2: Demand response

Information is power

The day is sweltering, air conditioners are cranked up, and the power grid is straining to meet demand. Today is a "needle peak" day -- on the annual power demand chart, it shows up as a spike. Out of the year's 8,760 hours, needle peaks will occupy 200 hours or less. An extreme day like this is why the grid maintains roughly twice as much power generating and transmission capacity as it uses on an average day. Even though power plants and lines are idle most of the year, this costly overbuilding is needed to cover all contingencies. The grid …

Read more: Climate & Energy