Emissions-free Aviation Arrives in Fresno

April 18, 2018, was a beautiful and sunny day, and even more exciting watching the first electric Plane in United States, to take flight from the Fresno Chandler Airport.

Four Alpha Electro planes from Pipistrel Aircraft were unveiled, as they will be utilized in aviation training for low-income residents of Fresno County. There was a brief tour of the aircrafts, and then we all watched in awe, as the aircraft ascended. Video of the aircraft and more information on the event can be found on The Fresno Bee

Nicole Zieba, Reedly City Manager speaking to the crowd in Fresno about the new electric aircraft.

This is all possible thanks to CALSTART’s Sustainable Aviation Project, creating the first emissions free flight training program in the country. With a regional that has historically experienced such poor air quality, a program of this nature will put the Central Valley on the right path for cleaner air and clean transportation development.

We are looking forward to the day when Fresno has its own Community Choice agency offering electricity from cleaner sources so that electric cars, appliances, and gadgets of all kinds, and… airplanes, can plug in to cleaner power. The Central Valley is making history and it was exciting and monumental to be a part! 

Airplanes that fly on electricity debut at Fresno’s Chandler Airport

An airplane made local aviation history when it was debuted at Fresno’s Chandler Executive Airport Tuesday.

The first all-production electric aircraft to fly in Fresno County took off under sunny skies as part of the Sustainable Aviation Project, an effort of the cities of Reedley and Mendota and CALSTART San Joaquin Valley.

The airplane is a zero-emission craft, and will provide low-cost flight training opportunities for area youth, organizers said.

The airplane, small enough to fit in a home garage, also demonstrates how a network of airports equipped with charging stations could make electric flight feasible. Such charging stations are being set up at Chandler and Mendota and Reedley municipal airports.

In all, four planes were ordered by the cities of Reedley and Mendota.

 

Airplanes that fly on electricity debut at Fresno’s Chandler Airport, by John Walker, The Fresno Bee, April 17, 2018.

Central Valley substations to be used in new electricity program

Starting in 2023, the Central Valley will have a new, more reliable source for energy. A public-private partnership will create the San Luis Transmission Project connecting the electric substations in Tracy to the San Luis, O’Neill and Dos Amigos substations found in the Los Banos area.

The project consists of Western Area Power Administration, Duke-American Transmission Co., the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the San Luis & Delta Mendota Water Authority.

The history
In 2016, the agreement between the Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) and Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) expired. This agreement provided for the delivery of power from the San Luis Unit to the federal Central Valley Project. Around the same time that the contract expired in 2016, the Bureau of Reclamation (the agency that oversees the Central Valley Project) requested that WAPA develop a new transmission service arrangement to replace the expiring contract.

Duke-American Transmission Co. submitted a request concurrent with the expiring contract between WAPA and PG&E, to utilize the same transmission corridor and supply power to the Central Valley Project. In order to maximize effectiveness and limit environmental impacts of these requests, a public-private partnership was formed to execute the project.
Public-private partnerships are formed between government agencies and private companies that have similar vested interests in a specific project. Sharing financial investments on the project lowers costs for each party and the public and minimizes risks, while often accelerating completion timelines to the benefit of all parties—including end-users.

In this case, Central Valley Project water users will benefit with lower and more stable costs as the project comes online and the entire community will benefit as there are greater opportunities to diversify the Central Valley’s energy portfolio.

The future
The San Luis Transmission Project (SLTP) will give residents a reliable source of low-cost energy in the Valley.

“It would enhance delivery of low-cost WAPA power to transport federal Central Valley Project water into the San Joaquin Valley and to the Bay Area water agencies, farms, and wetlands,” said Frances Mizuno with the San Luis & Delta Mendota Water Authority. “The SLTP will support agriculture in the most fertile farm land that is responsible for growing the majority of produce in the U.S.”

With the recent drought, compounded with new state water regulations, Valley farmers are desperate for reasonable and reliable electric and water sources. Mizuno notes that the new transmission line “would enhance reliability and enhance options for adding renewable generation and optimize the use of a constrained corridor.”

In other words, as described by Luella Dooley-Menet with Duke-America Transmission Co, “since the project will use an existing transmission corridor, it will minimize costs and farm and environmental impacts.”

Local farms are looking forward to the benefits provided by the new transmission line.
“As a San Joaquin Valley farmer, reliable, affordable power is essential to my business and the local economy,” said Sarah Woolf, a grower based in Cantua Creek. “The San Luis Transmission Project also increases the State’s ability to meet its renewable energy goals by creating more options for increasing renewable energy production in the Valley. That’s good for farms, it’s good for rural communities and it’s good for the environment.”

The San Luis Transmission line will have 600 megawatts of electricity capacity. 400 megawatts have been dedicated to water customers with the remaining 200 megawatts “available to area utilities and renewable energy developers,” according to Dooley-Menet. She adds that Duke will soon begin marketing the remaining 200 megawatts of additional capacity.

Since the expiration of the contract with PG&E, transmission services are purchased through the California Independent System Operator (CAISO), a self-described “non-profit public benefit corporation that keeps power moving to homes and communities.”

Essentially, the San Luis & Delta Mendota Water Authority, and their customers, are paying the going rate of transmission services since they are currently out of contract. Since it operates on a supply and demand system, rates can vary from day-to-day, let alone rise and fall over the course of a single day.

“The cost of building the San Luis Transmission Project is our cost-effective option to paying CAISO rates,” Mizuno said.

The project is fully permitted and in the construction design phase according to a release from the public-private partnership. Construction on the San Luis Transmission line will begin in 2021 and is scheduled to be operational in 2023.

Central Valley substations to be used in new electricity program, by J’amie Rosales, Business Journal, April 11, 2018.

Nation’s First Production Electric Aircraft Makes History Taking Flight in Fresno

The San Joaquin Valley now is home to the largest concentration of production electric aircraft in the world! Four Pipistrel Alpha Electro two-seat electric training airplanes were delivered to Fresno Chandler Executive Airport in March. San Joaquin Valley Clean Transportation Center Director Joseph Oldham, who also has been a pilot for more than 40 years, is the innovator behind CALSTART’s Sustainable Aviation Project, which will be the nation’s first flight training program using electric aircraft.

With slightly more than $1 million in funding from the Fresno County Transportation Authority, the program is a partnership with the cities of Mendota and Reedley that includes $90,000 in training assistance grant funds for youth from disadvantaged communities in Fresno County. The planes will operate at  Fresno Chandler Executive Airport and the municipal airports in Reedley and Mendota.

“Had I not known Joseph and that he could deliver, I would have laughed him out the door,” said Nicole Zieba, Reedley’s City Manager. She noted that the nation, and even the world, is facing a pilot shortage. This project brings the hope of a high-paying job to youth living in an area that still has high unemployment, she noted. “We are going to change lives,” Zieba said.

Oldham piloted one of the Alpha Electro planes on its first flight March 23 from Fresno Chandler Executive Airport. “This truly was a historic event,” he said. “It was the first flight of a production electric aircraft in the U.S.!”

Check out this video of that historic flight. To learn more about the project, read the Sustainable Aviation Project Blog or website.

 

Nation’s First Production Electric Aircraft Makes History Taking Flight in Fresno, by San Joaquin Valley Clean Transportation Center, San Joaquin Valley Clean Transportation Center April 2018 Newsletter, April 2, 2018.

 

Efficient homes + renewable energy = a better Bakersfield

I love Bakersfield. In a lot of ways, life in Bakersfield just keeps getting better.

In my opinion, we enjoy a very high quality of life in Bakersfield. We enjoy great parks, short commute times, a vibrant downtown and easy access to all of the amenities in the rest of California. We live in a growing city with, according to a recent study, some of the most affordable housing in the state.

The California Energy Commission is considering updates to building energy codes which would make living in Bakersfield even better. These updates will ensure that the cost of housing and energy costs stays reasonable by using one of our greatest local assets: abundant sunshine.

The proposed building energy efficiency standards, to take effect in 2020, would make new homes even more energy-efficient than the current codes require. That means families will save on energy bills and have an easier time staying in their homes. After all, homes are only affordable when you can afford all of the cost of the home including keeping the lights on. High utility bills can quickly make what was an affordable home something that is out of reach.

Energy efficiency is a no-brainer. It’s our cheapest energy resource. And spending less on energy means more money in people’s pockets, which feeds straight into direct benefits for our local economy. On average, if you spend a dollar on energy, only 28 cents of that dollar stays in the local community, but 75 cents of every dollar spent on other goods and services remain in the local economy. That’s a powerful economic driver that helps bring new opportunities and businesses to our revitalized city.

The standards — known as Title 24 — would also feature a pioneering policy change: all new California housing is to have access to renewable energy, like rooftop solar panels, which are very efficient in Bakersfield. California energy standards were first adopted in 1977 and have saved Californians billions of dollars in reduced energy bills.

This makes good sense in the San Joaquin Valley, where sunshine is plentiful. We are home to 24 percent of the state’s solar generation and 54 percent of the state’s wind generation. That has no small effect on our economy. When you add up all the direct and indirect jobs in these industries, you’re looking at a total of 88,000 jobs. Requiring solar panels on homes would help grow our renewable energy industry, creating even more good-paying local jobs. While keeping our housing stock affordable, I installed solar on my home 10 years ago. It has now paid for itself, and my energy bills continue to be reduced.

Clean energy is also good for everyone who breathes here. Toxic air pollution from industry, agriculture and the other sources have fallen 80 percent in the past 25 years because of the investment of our businesses and the hard work of our citizens. Cutting back on the required energy for our housing means even less air pollution.

As I ride my bicycle through Bakersfield every day, I see — and feel — the benefits of having cleaner air. To me, more breathable air goes along with other positive trends we’re seeing in our city, including a revitalized downtown, better parks and improvements in transportation. Building a new generation of homes powered by clean, renewable energy is a logical next step — one that will build a healthier, more prosperous future for everyone who calls Bakersfield home.

Bob Smith is the vice mayor of Bakersfield and the founder of Bike Bakersfield. He is a civil engineer, planner and builder.

 

Efficient homes + renewable energy = a better Bakersfield, by Bob Smith, Bakersfield.com , March 20, 2018.

8minutenergy Celebrates Completion of 26 Megawatt Redwood 4 Solar Farm

Folsom and Bakersfield, CA – March 7, 2018  8minutenergy Renewables, LLC (“8minutenergy”), the largest independent solar developer in the U.S., today celebrated a ribbon-cutting event for its 26 MW-dc (20 MW-ac) Redwood 4 Solar Farm located in Kern County, California. Project construction began in mid-September 2017, and the site was commissioned in December of the same year.

Redwood 4 is the first operational project to serve as a dedicated resource for Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s (PG&E’s) Solar Choice program, providing clean energy for California residents. PG&E’s Solar Choice program offers Northern and Central California residents and businesses the option to go solar without installing panels by purchasing their electricity from solar energy generated from projects such as this.

“We are proud to celebrate the completion of Redwood 4, and to help deliver clean energy options to PG&E’s customers,” said Martin Hermann, 8minutenergy’s CEO and Founder. “8minutenergy’s heritage is in California, and we are building some of the world’s largest solar farms here. Today is another landmark achievement as we complete the final installation in our 100 MW Redwood solar cluster.”

“Redwood 4 is a testament to our rigorous greenfield development approach, and we are thrilled to have financed, constructed, and completed the project in record time,” said 8minutenergy President and Co-Founder, Tom Buttgenbach. “We thank all of our partners and team for their hard work and support to reach this milestone.”

Swinerton Renewable Energy served as the engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) contractor for Redwood 4. REC Group supplied the solar panels for the project, and NEXTracker provided their smart solar tracking solution.

8minutenergy’s three other projects in the 100 MW Redwood solar cluster have been operational since the end of 2015. The projects will have a combined annual production capacity of over 200 million kilowatt hours (kWh) once complete, enough energy for more than 30,390 homes, and will reduce carbon emissions by more than 152,000 metric tons each year. 8minutenergy is maintaining their ownership of Redwood 4.

About 8minutenergy Renewables, LLC

Founded in 2009, 8minutenergy Renewables is the nation’s largest independent developer of solar PV and storage projects. To date, 8minutenergy has 7.5 GW of PV and 1 GW of storage under development in North America, operates 700+ MW in solar assets, and been awarded more than 1.5 GW in power purchase agreements. The company is developing some of the largest solar plants in the world, including the 800 MW Mount Signal farm in California. 8minutenergy has an unmatched ability to produce affordable clean energy, and to deliver strong financial returns on utility-scale solar and storage projects. For more information, please visit www.8minutenergy.com

 

8minutenergy Celebrates Completion of 26 Megawatt Redwood 4 Solar Farm, by 8minutenergy , BusinessWire, March 7, 2018.

Central Valley DAC Energy Grant Technical Assistance Peer Cohort

In partnership with the Energy Efficiency Best Practices Coordinator (BPC), Local Government Commission (LGC), and Institute for Local Governments (ILG), ICLEI will be hosting a structured technical assistance program for 5-8 local governments in the Central Valley on energy and grants. The program will guide agencies through resources provided by the state and the public utilities, best practices on community engagement, case studies on successful collaborative community and local government projects, and grant writing. Aimed at local governments in the Central Valley with high proportions of DACs, the program will help build capacity for agencies through planning an energy project and coaching them through completing funding applications. Participants will come in to the cohort with a few grant opportunities and ideas identified and leave with potential community partners identified and a basic proposal outline ready for submission. Program partners have strong track record of successful project funding through grant technical assistance and will also be evaluating options for project implementation assistance as well. The Grant Technical Assistance Cohort will be provided at no cost to local governments through SEEC.

 

Program participants will have exclusive access to the following resources:

  • Several in-person workshops
  • Live, web-based trainings
  • Dedicated office hours for direct support on grant applications
  • Peer exchange and learning
  • Tools and resources to facilitate the community engagement process

 

For more information, please click this link. To apply to the cohort, click here.

From “Central Valley Grant Technical Assistance Cohort

What good are ‘affordable’ homes if you can’t pay the utility bills?

As the construction superintendent for Habitat for Humanity of San Joaquin County, I have learned a thing or two about building affordable housing in the Central Valley. Based on my experience, California’s strong building energy efficiency standards – known as Title 24 – save families money and help them stay in their homes, year after year after year.

Affordable housing isn’t just about manageable mortgage payments. It’s also about ensuring the cost of actually living in the house – keeping the lights on, the water hot, the rooms comfortable – don’t cost so much that you can’t afford the monthly payment. Bluntly, there’s no point in building cheap houses if the people who live in them have to mortgage their kids to pay the utility bills.

That’s why the Habitat for Humanity homes we sell to families that need decent, affordable housing are designed to be as energy-efficient as possible. It’s also why we’re adding solar panels whenever we can. If you craft a tight, solid house that doesn’t waste energy, you cut energy use and that cuts utility bills. Letting the sun generate some of that energy, cuts utility bills even further.

PG&E studied one house we built in Stockton. The family of four who own it ran up electricity bills totaling $300 – for the entire year. Since this house was equipped with solar panels, it actually generated more energy than it used – meaning it is a Zero Net Energy home.

Residential buildings account for one-third of energy use statewide. To save energy and to help meet pollution reduction goals, California is required to update its energy codes for homes every three years. The state is considering the next round of standards, set to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2020, now. The proposed standards would boost energy efficiency, saving families money every month while providing healthier and more comfortable homes.

The proposed residential energy code would require new homes to either have a renewable energy source – like rooftop solar – or have access to shared renewable energy sources. This would cut families’ electric bills and provide reliability in the event of power outages.

Some say this solar requirement will make new houses unaffordable. Based on our experience at Habitat, I don’t think so. We save money on our ultra-efficient, solar-panel-equipped houses compared to traditional building methods, even if you factor in the free labor from volunteers.

Limiting the length of ductwork, using less lumber and more insulation, and keeping all the plumbing close to the water heater cuts energy use and saves us a lot on materials.

With some housing designs, solar panels might add a bit to the up-front cost of a home. But given the continued savings on electricity, homeowners are sure to save on energy bills. It’s important. A study from the University of Colorado found that not being able to pay utility bills is a leading cause of homelessness, second only to domestic violence.

I’m putting my money where my mouth is. I live in a 1950s house, and I’ve had enough. In January, my propane and electric bills cost twice as much as my mortgage. So I’m building a new house that will be much more energy efficient – equipped with solar photovoltaic panels and battery backup. Moving to a more efficient home powered with help from the sun makes sense for me. It will also make sense for families across the Central Valley.

George Koertzen is construction superintendent for Habitat for Humanity of San Joaquin County.

 

What good are ‘affordable’ homes if you can’t pay the utility bills?, by George Koertzen, The Modesto Bee, February 26, 2018.

CALSTART to host San Joaquin Valley Clean Transportation Summit

CALSTART, the Richmond based clean transportation organization, and the Fresno State Transportation Institute will host a two day summit revolving around emerging green transportation technologies. Taking place March 14th and 15th in Fresno, the summit will be free to attend and will include workshops on topics such as electrification of air travel, self driving vehicles, and much more.

Summit taking place March 14 and 15. Image from sjvcleantransportation.org

 

For more information, visit the San Joaquin Valley Clean Transportation Center site. For registration, please visit the Summit Eventbrite page.

 

Air District Chief Leaving

The end of an era has come at the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District. Seyed Sadredin is retiring after more than 10 years as the chief executive officer.

A look at his legacy is appropriate. Under Sadredin, the air district has continuously claimed to be doing a great job cleaning the air. It claims regularly to have the strictest regulations in the country. But, are residents breathing cleaner air today because of air district policies over the past 10 years? Has the district “left no stone unturned” as Sadredin likes to say ad nauseum.

Because of a lawsuit, Sadredin was forced to implement the first air quality regulations in the nation for factory animal farms. The air district made a menu of items each dairy would have to choose from to reduce volatile organic compound emissions. The dairy industry was happy because the menu required no more than what a well-run dairy should be doing anyway.

The air district was also forced through lawsuits to put in place an Indirect Source Rule for developers to mitigate the new air pollution emissions caused by their projects. The rule was weak, and it has not been properly enforced as one court recognized in Tulare County.

Because of repeated failures of the air district to show compliance with air quality standards, a fine was imposed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to collect money from big polluters for air quality improvements. Sadredin manipulated the rules so that the fine, approximately $30 million, was collected through state vehicle registration fees from every San Joaquin Valley resident who owned a car.

Sadredin has often blamed our air quality issues on outside causes. He made a big deal when ozone was discovered high in the mountains above Big Sur apparently blowing across the Pacific Ocean from China. Through a misinterpretation of preliminary data, up to 25% of our air pollution was stated to be from China. When proof was demanded, the air district slowly backed off those claims.

Whenever there has been a fire, anywhere in the state, the smoke somehow came into our valley and affected the air quality. Once upon a time, a three-hour fire at a refinery near Richmond caused a violation of an air quality standard three days later in Fresno, according to Sadredin.

There was a time, about seven years ago, that Arvin, in Kern County, consistently had the worst air quality in the Valley. The associated air monitor was then quietly removed and replaced with another kind in a new location. The air in Arvin was immediately 13%–18% cleaner. The State and the EPA demanded the monitor be put back. Sadredin privately met with the landowners at the site, and they subsequently refused to allow the monitor’s return.

Sadredin always blamed a lot of our bad air on people idling their cars at schools. He also criticized the American Lung Association when it “unfairly” ranked the Valley with the worst air in the nation. He once said that a lot of our Valley particulate matter was not as dangerous as other types. He even said the value of a life taken prematurely in the Valley, because of air pollution, was not as high as researchers claimed.

Sadredin liked to go on the radio and be quoted in the newspapers. Once he was asked on the radio why the air district cooperated with the EPA. Why didn’t he just tell them to go to hell? Sadredin said that was exactly what he and his board were trying to do.

A few years ago, Sadredin wrote a piece of legislation that would gut the Clean Air Act. With the new Congress in 2017, this legislation was quickly pushed through the House. Then, Sadredin backtracked and claimed the district really wanted only one small part of the legislation. But, the whole bundle is currently waiting for the Senate to take action.

Finally, through the years, Sadredin has consistently insulted the residents who have attended air district meetings and made comments asking for stronger regulations. According to him, no one understands the complexities of cleaning our air as he does.

So what about the air quality the past 10 years? Has it improved under Sadredin? The air district likes to cherry-pick numbers that make things look great. There has been some improvement in certain areas like the northern part of the valley. But, after a couple of better years really bad air pollution has always struck again.

Sadredin happens to be leaving with the air pollution worse than when he started in several areas. Residents in the southern half of the Valley experienced the worst episode of fine particulate matter in more than 10 years during the recent Christmas and New Year holidays. Just a month or two earlier, Bakersfield had gone through the worst summer of ozone violations in 10 years. This is not something most people would want to leave behind as a legacy.

 

Air District Chief Leaving, by Tom Frantz, Community Alliance, February 7, 2018.