Tesla stationary battery up-ends storage market
Tesla’s long-awaited unveiling of home and commercial batteries made waves last week despite earlier leaks, priced lower than predicted ($350 to $430 per kilowatt-hour), and available by lease from SolarCity at $555 per year for a 10-kWh battery system. Apart from the benefits of back-up power, inexpensive home batteries wield market power against utilities’ threats of a minimum connection charge, because they give customers an option besides the grid. Tesla’s new offering fits with growing interest in utility-scale storage: powering mountain communities subject to black-outs and storing wind power on Nordic islands or anywhere more clean energy is available than customers can use at that moment.
Shell’s Arctic base in Seattle hits snag
Shell’s Seattle base for Arctic oil-drilling needs new municipal permits, according to a planning review announced Monday by Mayor Ed Murray. The city found that the repair of oil rigs doesn’t fit within the “cargo terminal” use allowed in that part of the harbor, but Shell’s contractor Foss Maritime vowed to continue work while the port and the city resolve the dispute. Meanwhile, Shell faced a shareholder lawsuit from the conservation group Oceana over the undisclosed risks it incurs by drilling in the Arctic. Russia has a new idea about Arctic drilling, too: powering oil rigs with floating nuclear power plants, like the reactor it’s had under construction since 2007.
Unusually hot? Odds are, climate change is to blame
Three-quarters of extremely hot days—so hot they would normally have occurred less than once every three years—can be attributed to human-caused climate change, according to new research by Swiss scientists. The study modeled the weather with and without the greenhouse gases that have been added to the air since the Industrial Revolution, and found that global warming already quadruples the occurrence of those exceptionally hot days, with a further six-fold increase expected by mid-century under business-as-usual. Another climate impact already being detected is a decline in Tanzanian coffee yields resulting from higher night-time temperatures, which deprive the popular Arabica variety of the cool nights it requires.
CA utilities to try new solar rooftop program
Californians will be able to buy power from nearby, small-scale renewables even if they can’t put solar panels on their rooftops, under mandated programs to be offered by the state’s three largest utilities. The programs are designed for customers who—because they are renters or have shady roofs—can’t install their own panels. Utilities will provide transmission and billing services, retaining a role in the clean energy economy, reports Energywire. The plans come as California regulators lower rates for the highest consumers and raise them on the most frugal, changing the economics but leaving California as one of 14 states where rooftop PVs already pay themselves off within ten years.
Obama’s tanker-car rules too slow for citizen groups
Flammable oil tanker cars will get a safety upgrade under new federal rules, but citizen groups slammed the plan for allowing the easily punctured DOT-111 cars to ride the rails for three more years, and giving railroads until 2021 to fully upgrade their other tankers. Ahead of the announcement, Oregon’s two US senators and four co-sponsors introduced legislation that would charge a fee—initially $175, rising to $1,400 by 2018—on each trip by an unreinforced DOT-111 car, on top of a thousand-dollar surcharge already imposed by BNSF Railway. The movement of oil-by-rail has increased twenty-fold since 2010 and was only recently mapped by the Energy Information Administration.
Swarthmore won’t divest, but Church of England will
After bowing to a month-long student sit-in urging them to consider divestment, the trustees of Swarthmore College voted last weekend not to divest the school’s endowment from the fossil fuel industry. Taking the opposite tack were seven UK-based charities with endowments totaling $350 million, which last week announced plans to shed their fossil fuel investments, and the Church of England, which said it will divest from tar sands oil and thermal coal. Still holding out is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which last week was the recipient of a video petition for divestment assembled by the Guardian, with several dozen voices representing nearly 200,000 signers.
Learning how to deny the deniers
The EPA wouldn’t be able to base new regulations on scientific studies that make use of private data, if a bill that cleared a US Senate committee last week becomes law. The bill is seen as a back-door assault on the agency’s ability to draw on public health research or patients’ medical records which can’t be disclosed for privacy reasons. In a counter-blow for science and against denialism, the founder of Skeptical Science launched an on-line course last week that deconstructs climate denial and trains students to tackle it by understanding the ideology and beliefs underpinning climate denial.
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On the Climate Solutions blog: Ross Macfarlane reviews a new report from the Natural Resources Defense Council about the dangers of transporting tar sands oil through the Pacific Northwest; Joelle Robinson calls for comments on the newly proposed NuStar oil-by-rail terminal in Vancouver, WA; and Climate Solutions reprints the remarks of 10-year-old climate activist Dae Dahlquist at the Climate Solutions annual reception in Olympia last month.