Climate Change-Fueled Valley Fever is Hitting Farmworkers Hard

Victor Gutierrez doesn’t know when he contracted valley fever, an illness caused by a soil-borne fungus, but he’s narrowed it down to a few possible jobs he worked during the summer of 2011.

In the nectarine orchards, Gutierrez recalls, “the wind was really strong, and we were almost falling off our ladders. The dust would rise up in the fields and we would get lost in in [it].” The grape harvest that year wasn’t much better. “We would walk out of the vineyard with our faces full of dirt. Only our eyes were visible,” he said. When he showered at night, he could see the layer of soil washing off his body.

Late that summer, Gutierrez started experiencing flu-like symptoms—a cough, night sweats, exhaustion, and a strange feeling that he was burning up on the inside. Gutierrez ignored it and kept working for fear of losing his job. But when he struggled to breathe, he went to see a doctor, who gave him a dose of antibiotics and told him to buy a humidifier.

The next day his lungs filled up with fluid and he felt so bad that he went to a local clinic. This time, they tested him for valley fever, and it came back positive.

“The nurse called me and told me to rush to the clinic because it was an emergency,” he said. Gutierrez, who was 33 at the time and a father of three, had never heard of valley fever. He was told he might only have six months to live.

While Gutierrez managed to beat those odds by taking the antifungal medication fluconazole for more than a year, he has seen valley fever kill many other people he’s known. Of the five people he recalls seeing diagnosed with the fungal infection on that day in 2011, he said he’s the only survivor.

Still, valley fever remains dormant in his body—and it could come back at any point. Gutierrez still struggles with regular pain in his lungs and when he gets a cold or flu, he’s in bed for weeks.

Coccidioidomycosis or cocci (pronounced “coxy”) thrives in dry, undisturbed soil; it becomes airborne when that soil is disturbed—whether it’s by dirt bikes, construction crews, or farmers putting in new fruit or nut orchards. It can travel on the wind as far as 75 miles away. Years of climate change-fueled drought and a 240 percent increase in dust storms appear have led to a swift rise in the number of people diagnosed with the illness across the Southwest.

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Tulare County ready to make the ‘switch’ to solar

VISALIA – Tulare County is going green. Not with cannabis of course, but with energy.

Last week the Tulare County Board Supervisors, county staff and community members gathered to “Flip the Switch” at Government Plaza. The symbolic light switch denotes the County’s new partnership to implement a large-scale solar energy project at several County facilities, including Government Plaza, County Civic Center, Bob Wiley Detention Facility, and the new South County Detention Facility. The energy saving program is expected to generate approximately $40 million in savings over the next 25 years and reduce electricity spending by 70%.

“I knew Tulare County had many opportunities for electric generation and efficiency when I first joined the Board,” stated Chairman Kuyler Crocker. “ENGIE approached us with a proposal that would allow us to keep our reserves intact, but realize the cost savings. This large scale project will allow for future energy efficiency projects, maximize utility cost savings, and utilize precious taxpayer dollars for vital County Services.”

Aligning with the County’s Strategic Business Plan to promote fiscal and environmental responsibility, the new solar project is expected to eliminate carbon generated emissions equivalent to taking 2,700 cars of the road every year in use.

ENGIE Services designed, engineered and installed a total 9.2 megawatts of solar photovoltaic (PV) power on solar shade parking structures and ground mount structures. In addition, the project includes 1 MW/2 MWh of battery energy storage systems to store electricity and maximize generation capacity.

“The ENGIE Services U.S. team has been proud to work with Tulare County over the past two years – helping deliver next generation energy solutions to help address both the financial and environmental challenges that many counties across California are faced with,” shared John Mahoney, CEO and President of ENGIE Services North America.

“By using a Solar PPA model combined with battery storage, Tulare County maximizes the economic value and resiliency of their energy infrastructure. Congratulations to the County on the launch of this next chapter of their energy transformation.»

The new renewable energy equipment is financed through a power purchase agreement with ENGIE Services allowing the County to pay zero upfront capital and the ability to lock in a low fixed electricity rate for the next 25 years. The new large-scale solar project is expected to be fully operational at all seven County sites by the Fall this year.

 

Tulare County ready to make the ‘switch’ to solar, by Sun Gazette Staff, The Sun Gazatte, June 12, 2019.

Program Expanding Electric Vehicle Charging in City of Fresno

A suite of electric vehicle (EV) chargers is now available to the public at Beneficial State Bank in Fresno, Calif., installed with the support of a partnership working to increase EV charging availability in Fresno County. The partnership’s goals are to support access to clean transportation, improve local air quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The Level 2 EV chargers, capable of partially charging an electric car while a driver runs errands, were installed using a variety of incentives and resources available to commercial property owners and others to purchase and install chargers at publicly accessible locations.

“Building out the public infrastructure for charging electric cars is critical to meeting state and regional goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and achieve cleaner air for everyone,” said Andy Hoskinson, CSE’s senior manager for EV initiatives. “Projects like this one at Beneficial State Bank demonstrate how incentives and financial assistance programs play a central role in helping local communities develop clean transportation options for their residents.”

The California Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Project (CALeVIP), funded by the California Energy Commission and managed by the CSE, reserved $40,000 for the charger installation at the bank site. CALeVIP’s Fresno County Incentive Project is providing up to $4 million in incentives to owners of commercial properties, apartments, condominiums, workplaces and public agencies for the purchase and installation of Level 2 EV chargers in the county.

“Making it easier to charge electric cars in Fresno is critical to this community’s transition from polluting petroleum-based vehicles to clean transportation, which will provide cleaner air and countless public health benefits,” said Energy Commissioner Patty Monahan. “The Energy Commission is proud to be working with our partners on this project and throughout the state to increase access to the charging infrastructure that makes this transition possible.”

Green Commuter, a startup supported by the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator, coordinated with Beneficial State Bank to apply for funding to install the 10 chargers. The company is a service that provides zero-emission vehicles for vanpool purposes, allowing passengers to commute together in areas including the Central Valley. During noncommuting hours, the vehicles are open for public car sharing.

The project at Beneficial State Bank also received $50,000 from the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District’s Charge Up! Program, which provides funding for businesses and public agencies in the Central Valley to purchase publicly accessible Level 2 chargers.

The chargers at Beneficial State Bank were also installed with the help of private capital loan financing through Pacific Enterprise Bank, a participating lender in the Pollution Control Financing Authority’s California Capital Access Program Electric Vehicle Charging Station Financing Program (CalCAP EVCS).

 

Program Expanding Electric Vehicle Charging in City of Fresno, by Chuck Colgan, The Center of Sustainable Energy, June 11, 2019.

Effort to allow electricity from large dams to count as renewable energy in California fails to pass

A controversial effort to broaden California’s definition of renewable energy has fizzled out. The proposal would have allowed electricity from a large dam in the Central Valley to count the same as solar and wind.

Under a law signed last year by former Gov. Jerry Brown aimed at reducing smog and greenhouse gas emissions, utilities in California are required to produce 60 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2030.

Large dams aren’t allowed to count toward that total, however. That rule dates back nearly 20 years, when state lawmakers wanted to increase investment in solar and wind projects, and did not want to increase demand for construction of big new dams on rivers, which kill salmon and have other environmental impacts.

But State Sen. Anna Caballero, D-Salinas, introduced the bill earlier this year to allow two utilities, the Modesto and Turlock irrigation districts, to count the electricity generated by turbines at Don Pedro Reservoir, which they jointly own, toward their 60 percent mandate.

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With So Many Electric Cars, Why Not Electric Tractors?

There are many different models of electric cars—they are even mainstream in most  U.S. cities and other countries—and now farmers may soon have electric tractors to use in specialty crops in California.

Bakur Kvezereli is president and CEO of Ztractor, the first autonomous electric tractor for specialty crops. Kvezereli, who is based in Palo Alto, explained why the tractor is being developed in California.

“First, California is our market. Second, we teamed up with some great engineers, who graduated from Stanford, and my school, which was MIT. We were friends, and we wanted to look into this technology looking to replace the 25 or 30 HP diesel motor as well as the 30-gallon diesel,” he said.

“And we started as an electric tractor company in September 2017. And in two months, we realized that to achieve an electric tractor, you have to find a solution for making it autonomous,” Kvezereli explained.

“We now have three models in our manufacturing pipeline. One 24 horsepower will be available to the farmers this year. The next model will be a bigger tractor, 45 horsepower, which will be available 2020, and a 125 horsepower will be available in 2021.”

“Our basic tractor will have all the usual features found in most other tractors. The premium model line will have more features, especially on the software and hardware area. The zTractors will have no emissions and no hydraulics—just strong torque power.”

A four-hour charge will provide 6 to 10 hours of work in the field. “It requires only level two charging similar to car charging.  “We are exploring a better battery, however currently it is the nickel ion technology,” Kvezereli said

“Horsepower is where we estimate the metrics for a tractor. What we think farmers care about is torque. In electric, to achieve higher torque is much easier than to achieve it with diesel power, and electric technology in general is very reliable for many types of tasks,” said Kvezereli.

The electric tractors keep the same three-point hitch as well as a PTO, both electrically operated.

“We build everything based on the requirements for the PTO and three-point hitch, and I think that’s what makes the Ztractor different from any other robotics companies that will provide a better tractor. It’s a general purpose and can replace a regular traditional tractor,” he said.

The main farming operations will be strawberry  vineyards and vegetable operations. The tasks will include soil preparation and crop management. Harvest tasks are not yet available.

The prices for the tractors, calculated at $1,000 per horsepower, are similar to traditional tractors.

 

Electric Tractors Will Soon Be Available, by Patrick Cavanaugh, California Ag Today, June 5, 2019.

New Drilling and Fracking in California Will Hurt Latino Communities

Elizabeth Perez was only 10 years old when she moved with her family to the city of Bakersfield, in California. Almost immediately, she says, she began experiencing nosebleeds, headaches and difficulty breathing. Perez was in and out of a local health clinic for years, but doctors couldn’t quite pinpoint what was making her sick.

Today, at age 24, she has a strong suspicion about the culprit. “I’ve seen a lot of people with the same symptoms in low-income communities located near oil and gas developments. And I think it’s pretty clear we’re being affected by heavy pollution,” she said.

Perez’s childhood memories have been coming back as she watches new pollution threats creep closer to Bakersfield. These come in the form of plans by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) that would open well over a million acres of public lands in California to oil and gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking.

The move has raised red flags among community members and environmentalists in the state’s Central Valley region, which stretches north from around Bakersfield hundreds of miles through the Sacramento Valley. The area is already home to some of the nation’s largest producing oil fields and a growing number of natural gas wells.

Pollution Looms Over Bakersfield, Broader Central Valley

Central Valley residents know all too well the consequences of having fossil fuel extraction in their backyards. A combination of industrial agriculture and fossil fuel drilling has given the area at least two unwanted titles: the most polluted air in the country, with the cities of Fresno, Madera, Hanford and Bakersfield topping recent rankings of particle pollution compiled by the American Lung Association, and some of the most contaminated drinking water.

Further oil and gas development is likely to make conditions even worse.

The BLM’s recent actions would end a five-year moratorium on oil and gas leasing in California that was instituted because the agency did not fully examine the environmental consequences of “fracking.” The highly controversial extraction method involves injecting a mixture of water and chemicals into deep underground rock formations to release oil and gas. The technology not only intensifies fossil fuel extraction but also emits an array of toxic pollutants harmful to humans and the environment.

To measure the effects pollution is already having in and around Bakersfield, CCEJN worked with community members to collect air samples in neighborhoods where over 80% of residents identified as Hispanic or Latino.

In an initial report, they found several chemicals, including some linked to cancer and weakened immune systems.

“The levels of benzene were particularly above average,” Martinez said. “There’s really no safe level of this gas, but people are breathing it here daily and for several years.”

As someone who likes to spend time outdoors, Perez says she is concerned about what new oil and gas sites could mean for her community. Areas like Hart Memorial Park, northeast of Bakersfield, where families go hiking, fishing and picnicking, could become too toxic for recreation. “Some parks are right next to oil fields which is not a scenic sight. And it’s hard to think of kids breathing pollution when they are supposed to be enjoying nature,” she said.

More drilling in California also poses a major threat of increased pollution in beloved wild lands like Sequoia National Park, the Carrizo Plain National Monument and the Los Padres National Forest.

A Matter of Environmental Justice

After her teenage years, Perez graduated from the University of California, Bakersfield, majoring in Environmental Management. She still lives in Bakersfield, where she works as a ranger at a nature preserve and as a community organizer for Central California Environmental Justice Network (CCEJN).

As part of her job, she educates low-income Latino communities about the environmental and health impacts of oil and gas operations — including her old neighborhood.

Bakersfield is a textbook example of how people of color disproportionately shoulder the burden of fossil fuel development. A recent study found that black and Hispanic Americans tend to live in communities that are exposed to more pollution, despite contributing far less than white Americans to the consumer spending that drives that activity.

What’s more, energy and other highly polluting development is often sited within diverse, low income, working class or rural communities. A disparity often pointed out by environmental justice advocates.

“These communities have a large percentage of immigrants from Latin American countries, and a low-socioeconomic status,” according to Nayamin Martinez, CCEJN’s Director.

“That means they have less opportunities to be proactive and oppose this type of development compared to more affluent neighborhoods,” she said.

Community Fights Drilling Plans

As the BLM plans move forward, community members and environmental groups are speaking up.

In 2015, regional environmental groups took the BLM to court for not explicitly addressing how the planned fracking could impact human health and the environment. A judge agreed and ordered the agency to take a closer look. As part of that process, last year the BLM received more than 8,000 public comments outlining potential threats — including air and water quality.

The resulting report predicted an increase in toxic pollution from new fracking wells. Shockingly, it didn’t propose any changes to protect public health or the environment — not a single change to the original drilling plan. The BLM is now accepting public comments on this statement until June 10, a chance for the public to express their concerns once more and hopefully be heard.

There’s a lot on the line. If approved, these plans would expose communities like Bakersfield to further pollution and pain. Perez is doing her part by sharing her life story and educating local communities about the risks of further oil and gas drilling in the area. “They are the ones most affected, so it’s important for them to know what is going on and how to make a positive change.”

Businesses Urged To Help Valley Set Its Energy Future

The City of Hanford is on track to become the first Valley community to take more control of its energy sources and costs when it launches its Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) program next year.

Other Valley communities are at various stages of considering whether to form CCAs, with Fresno, Huron, Clovis, Sanger, Parlier and Kerman among them.

Potentially, the programs could save residential customers a few dollars off their electric bills, and the savings could be considerably more for manufacturers and other businesses with heavy demand, a trio of men advocating for CCAs told attendees at a seminar during the recent Valley Made 5th Annual Manufacturing Summit in Fresno.

 

Setting an energy destiny

The actual savings would stem from the decisions made by the governing boards of the individual CCAs, which would be run by local government leaders.

Those decisions would include from where the CCAs buy power; how much of that power would come from solar, wind and other renewable sources or if generators burning fossil fuels and some waste products might be in the mix; and how any profits are spent.

Options for using those profits include reducing rates for customers or funding incentive programs for homes and businesses to become more energy efficient, the experts said.

In any of these decisions, business people should be at the table, whether it’s at the beginning stages, as Fresno is doing, or when its farther along, as in Hanford, or if an authority is fully formed, as in Marin and Lancaster, said Barry Vesser, deputy director of the nonprofit Center for Climate Protection in Santa Rosa, one of the invited speakers.

 

Business input crucial

“A CCA will allow Fresno to have a say in how that looks, not just leaving it to a state or major utility,” he said, adding that businesses need to be part of this if Fresno or any other Valley cities go forward, “because if you want the kind of program that will serve local business interests and will help grow the economy here, you want to be part of helping develop that.”

As for what CCAs are, they stem from a 2002 law passed by the California Legislature allowing communities in the state to combine the electricity loads of their residents and businesses into community-wide electricity aggregation programs.

Not that a CCA could completely break free from Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern Californian Edison or one of the other investor-owned utilities.

What the law does is give the CCAs more local control, specifically the ability to chose from where they buy power. They also have the authority to own and run their own electrical sources — including solar and wind farms — though so far the 19 existing CCAs in California largely buy their power from businesses that generate electricity, as PG&E mostly does, the advocates told the audience.

 

More flexibility

CCAs being able to choose from whom they buy their power creates a more competitive market, so the CCAs may negotiate more favorable rates for their electricity than the utilities could, explained Mike Dozier, a Clovis-based, independent energy consultant.

So communities can work with energy suppliers closer to their areas, helping keep the money they pay local, or they could pay for power generated from far away, he said.

The distance isn’t important from a technical standpoint, because a supplier doesn’t actually direct power to a particular city. Instead, the power is fed from the source into the electrical grids operated by the big utilities, and communities draw from it like farmers drawing their portions of the water they’re entitled to from a reservoir, Dozier explained.

This also allows individual power customers to decide to opt out of their respective CCAs and continue being customers of the utilities.

As such, even in a Valley community that forms a CCA, customers would still pay the electrical distribution costs — usually about 60 percent of an electric bill — and the utilities still own and maintain their electrical infrastructure and handle the customer billing, he said.

An effort had been underway years ago to create the state’s first CCA in the Valley, but the Great Recession helped ground it in 2008, Dozier said.

 

CCAs come into their own

The first started in Marin in 2010, and since then more have formed, serving 60 cities and parts of 20 counties.

The question of whether to start a CCA is likely to become more prevalent in Fresno and other communities that don’t have them, as this new system of contracting for electricity is gaining momentum.

A newly formed CCA in Los Angeles County is serving 32 cities, and expectations are that Fresno will more actively explore the possibility of forming one in the future. The speakers at the May 2 summit noted that some of the smaller communities interested may wait for Fresno to go forward and — if that happens — then join its CCA.

“And we project that by 2020, [CCAs] will be serving half of the load of the state of California.”

 

Savings in Hanford

Dozier said Hanford expects to cut electric bills by 10 percent once its CCA is up and running, adding that the chief driver to create the program was to reduce energy costs for Faraday Future, which has been building its first electric car manufacturing plant in a million-square-foot former tire plant on the city’s south end — though financial troubles have so far stalled the project.

While some savings may be considerably less — including the average 2.5 percent savings for Sonoma Clean Power customers — the CCA advocates said it’s important to note that the savings also are hedges against power utilities raising their rates.

“Can it save you money? Absolutely. If you look at PG&E’s record over the past 30 years, it’s basically a 4% [rate] increase every year,” Vesser said.

With the utility having filed for bankruptcy and facing billions of dollars in liabilities for reportedly causing a series of California wildfires in recent years — including the Camp Fire that destroyed more than 21,000 homes in parts of six counties in the northern part of the state — more rate hikes seem inevitable in the near future, he said.

 

Incentive opportunities

For businesses, the monthly electric bill savings may be less important than the programs the CCAs my impose that could draw new businesses or incentivize existing ones to stay.

Though the audience for the seminar was small, those in attendance seemed highly interested in what was said, among them Mike Betts, CEO of the Betts Co., a Fresno manufacturer of industrial springs and truck accessories.

“The real bottom-line issue for manufacturing is we’re paying three to five times more than we should be paying today,” when compared to electric rates in Texas, Oklahoma and many other parts of the country, as well as other countries, he said after the seminar.

While a 2.5-percent savings may not seem like much, if it allows communities to avoid yearly rate bumps by the utilities, the savings could cumulatively be significant, Betts said.

But if a CCA is formed in Fresno, “Maybe there should be some manufacturers on that board,” to help ensure the decisions it makes are good for businesses here, he noted.

“I like what Hanford is doing because of Faraday. It was focused on an economic incentive of doing business [there] for industry.”

As for whether manufacturers would favor a Fresno CCA, Betts said not enough discussion has occurred to get a good sense of that. But until that happens, “We’ve got to just get the facts, do the research, talk with the other cities that have CCAs.”

 

Businesses Urged To Help Valley Set Its Energy Future, by David Castellon, The Business Journal, June 4, 2019.

Should big dams count as renewable energy? California Democrats divided

For motorists driving to Yosemite National Park from the Bay Area, Don Pedro Reservoir is a familiar sight. But the massive lake along Highway 120 just west of Groveland has taken on a new role recently: as a flashpoint in the debate over what should — and shouldn’t — count as renewable energy in California.

The outcome of that debate could impact how much solar and wind energy is developed across the state in years to come.

In an effort to combat climate change and reduce smog, former Gov. Jerry Brown last year signed a landmark law that requires California’s utilities to produce 60 percent of their electricity from renewable sources like solar and wind by 2030.

But hydroelectric power from large dams doesn’t qualify as renewable, because of another state law, passed nearly 20 years ago, that aimed to protect salmon and other endangered fish.

That’s not right, says State Sen. Anna Caballero, D-Salinas.

Hydroelectric power, which is generated when water spins turbines in dams, is clean energy, and doesn’t produce smog or greenhouse gases, she notes. Caballero has introduced a bill in the state Legislature that would allow the two government agencies that own Don Pedro Reservoir, the Modesto Irrigation District and the Turlock Irrigation District, to count the electricity their dam produces toward the 60 percent renewable energy target they must meet.

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From Signing to Completion in Under a Year: Stockton Unified and ForeFront Power Bring 1.8 MW of Added Solar Capacity to San Joaquin Valley

/EIN News/ — Stockton, California, May 23, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Tomorrow Stockton Unified School District unveils the completion of their latest round of solar projects with ForeFront Power, a leading renewable energy provider for schools in California. The District, located in sunny San Joaquin Valley, has added solar parking canopies to 10 more campuses, bringing their new total to 32 sites. The 10 new solar projects, totaling 1.8 MW, are expected to produce approximately 2.68 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of clean electricity annually for the district. The District is offsetting 83 percent of their annual energy consumption and is expected to save over 38,000 1 metric tons of carbon emissions over the 20 years.

According to District Superintendent, Dr. John Deasy, “Stockton Unified is proud to announce we have taken another step closer towards energy independence. We are modeling the importance of saving our planet for our future generations of SUSD scholars.”

 

Conserving Energy and Budget

Stockton Unified is no stranger to sustainability, having pursued lighting efficiency and solar projects over the last decade. Having now completed their second round of solar installations, and the first with ForeFront Power, the addition is part of the District’s ongoing initiatives around energy conservation. The District recognizes the value that solar provides in hedging against unpredictable, potentially volatile energy rates in California due to changes in Time of Use (TOU) periods and Net Energy Metering (NEM) rates.

According to Steve Breakfield, Director of Facilities and Planning at Stockton USD, “We looked to do solar to be more efficient with both our energy usage and sustainability practices. We also wanted to cut down on costs and be more mindful of our budget, which comes from taxpayer dollars. We aim to be as prudent as possible in how we spend, and the addition of solar helps us make sure we don’t have to overpay for our energy.”

Thanks to the financing framework provided by Forefront Power, Stockton will be paying a flat rate for their solar electricity. Under the 20-year Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with ForeFront Power, the district is expected to save an estimated $2.6M in electricity costs over the term. For public entities such as school districts, having fixed electricity rates helps administrators manage limited budges more effectively and allocate funds to areas that need it most.

 

Swiftness of the Process

This decision to go solar a second time around was an easy one. Having previously installed 7.3 MW of capacity at 22 other schools in the District, the decision to go solar again was natural – just a matter of allocating both time and resources to move forward. The challenge for these new projects was that Stockton was seeking a different solar provider to add additional capacity and in a much shorter time frame.

ForeFront Power’s development team, which has more than a decade of experience and has developed over 200 MW of renewable energy projects in California, was able to help Stockton realize these additional opportunities for solar. According to Breakfield, “It was a good process figuring out what would work. Everything went much more smoothly compared to the last time [we deployed solar with another company]. ForeFront Power evaluated the rest of the sites, walked them with us, listened to our requirements, and were realistic about what they could accomplish. If some sites pencil in the future, we will definitely do it again.”

As a testament to the swiftness of the process, Breakfield added, “ForeFront Power took this large portfolio of projects from signing to completed installations in well under a year. The experience of their team was evident throughout the entire process.”

With over half of their schools now on solar power, Stockton doesn’t plan to slow down. Plans for more solar are extending beyond school campuses, wherein the future, Stockton Unified looks to add more solar and are evaluating additional sites.

“Our team is honored to partner with Stockton USD on their next phase of solar installations,” says Go Mizoguchi, Co-CEO of ForeFront Power. “Not only will the community benefit from having more renewable energy, but our projects will also provide an on-site learning opportunity for students.”

 

Energy Education for Future Generations

For students and faculty across Stockton USD’s 32 solar-powered campuses, the learning opportunities with solar extend beyond the canopied parking lots and playgrounds and into the classrooms. The District will receive solar monitoring dashboards displaying live production data which can be accessed by students and teachers in real time. In addition, ForeFront Power will make educational classroom visits and provide the District with free lesson plans that integrate the tangible experience of solar energy into the existing STEM curriculum.

For more information about ForeFront Power and solar energy for schools, visit k12.forefrontpower.com.

 

About Stockton Unified School District

Stockton Unified School District (SUSD) began providing services to students in 1852 and is located in the heart of California’s Central Valley near the banks of the San Joaquin River. SUSD is the 17th largest school district in California, whereby 38,000 PK-12th grade students come to us to experience an academic journey that leads to high school graduation and success in college, careers, and as actively-engaged community members. The District also serves a number of adults through our Stockton School For Adults. SUSD is made up of thirty-seven Head Start classes, fifty-three state preschool classes, three First 5 preschool classes, forty-one K-8 schools, four comprehensive high schools, three small high schools, an alternative high school, a special education school, a school for adults, and five dependent charter schools.  Our district mission is to graduate every single youth college, career, and community ready.  Stockton Unified School District is dedicated to providing high-quality first instruction, rigorous curriculum, and supporting academic achievement and social-emotional development supported by Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS).  The District’s work is guided by three goals:

·         Every child by the end of third grade will read and comprehend at the proficient level.

·         Every child will have access to high quality, rigorous first instruction.

·         Every child, by the end of 12th grade, will graduate and be college, career, and community ready.

About ForeFront Power

ForeFront Power is a leading provider of solar energy and battery storage solutions for the public sector, utility, business, and residential customers across the United States and Mexico. Our team has delivered over 800 MW of wholesale, virtual, and behind-the-meter projects during the past decade. ForeFront Power’s proven development expertise, off-balance sheet financing, and best in class asset management enables us to provide our customers with the highest quality solar and storage products, helping to reduce expenses and achieve sustainability targets with clean, affordable energy. Headquartered in San Francisco, ForeFront Power has offices in New York and Mexico City.

 

From Signing to Completion in Under a Year: Stockton Unified and ForeFront Power Bring 1.8 MW of Added Solar Capacity to San Joaquin Valley, Press Release, Globe Newswire, May 23, 2019.

Berkeley lab project to pinpoint methane ‘super emitters’ in San Joaquin Valley

Methane, a potent greenhouse gas that traps about 30 times more heat than carbon dioxide, is commonly released from rice fields, dairies, landfills, and oil and gas facilities—all of which are plentiful in California. Now the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) has been awarded $6 million by the state to find “super emitters” of methane in an effort to quantify and potentially mitigate methane emissions.

With a grant from the California Energy Commission, the project will focus on the southern San Joaquin Valley, a region where the dairy industry and oil and gas industry are the dominant sources of methane. Berkeley Lab is working in collaboration with Stanford University, UC Riverside, the Central California Asthma Collaborative, Scientific Aviation, and Bluefield on the project, dubbed SUMMATION, or SUper eMitters of Methane detection using Aircraft, Towers, and Intensive Observational Network.

“The existing methane accounting and monitoring frameworks in California are limited in their ability to resolve emissions at the scale of individual cities or facilities, such as an oil and gas field or a  processing facility, much less individual components,” said Sébastien Biraud, a Berkeley Lab scientist who leads the effort. “The idea for this project is based on the development of a tiered observation system.”

The researchers will be monitoring and quantifying  at multiple scales, from regional to facility and component scales. Detection methods include collecting air samples from a network of fixed towers and aircraft, running field campaigns to test new technologies including low-cost sensors, driving throughout the region using on-road vehicles equipped with a variety of equipment, and surveying residential and commercial buildings.

“We will show the state how methane  quantification can be done over a complex region, and hopefully demonstrate that our approach can be replicated in a cost-effective manner to other areas of interest in California, such as the San Francisco Bay Area or the Sacramento region,” Biraud said. “The goal is to design a framework, show that it works, and expand it throughout the state.”

Challenges of accurate methane monitoring

Methane is classified as a short-lived climate pollutant as it stays in the atmosphere only about 10 years, while , the most abundant anthropogenic greenhouse gas, stays in the atmosphere for about 100 years. California is mandated to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions under several laws and executive orders, and it has prioritized a reduction of short-lived climate pollutants as a way to make a more immediate beneficial impact on climate change and public health.

For example, California passed the California Cooling Act last year banning certain hydrofluorocarbons in new air conditioning and refrigeration systems. And following the 2015 Aliso Canyon disaster, a massive leak from a natural gas storage facility in Southern California, the state adopted an air regulation requiring quarterly monitoring of methane emissions from oil and gas wells, natural gas processing facilities, and other equipment used in the processing and delivery of oil and natural gas.

It also takes regular inventories of California’s , but numerous studies, including from Berkeley Lab, have found that official inventories could be underestimating methane emissions. The southern San Joaquin Valley is particularly lacking in reliable atmospheric observations of methane. Combined with the complexity of this region’s sources, this translates to significant uncertainty in the total magnitude and distribution (over space, time, and sector) of methane emissions in the region.

Most methane emissions from super emitters

The prime target of SUMMATION is big emitters. “Methane emissions could be in the form of a distributed area of small leaks, which is difficult to address, or from a large super emitter, which is low-hanging fruit,” Biraud said. “A statewide methane survey led by NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory from 2015 through 2017 found that 80% of methane emissions in California are from 25% of sources; in some cases, as few as 1% of sources contribute more than half the emissions. A super emitter could be a dairy, it could be a landfill that’s not well maintained, or it could be a leaking natural gas compressor station.”

Having multiple collection methods, including continuous and frequent field campaigns, will improve detection and monitoring. “Many sources are not persistent—they could be on for a few months, then off,” Biraud said. “If you just do surveys one or two times a year, you’re fishing. You might see a source, you might not. With a persistent network of towers, you address the nature of intermittent sources.”

The SUMMATION team will use tracers to help attribute the source of methane. For example, certain alkanes (like ethane) are present in methane from oil and gas operations but not present in methane from dairy operations.

One key component of the project is to evaluate low-cost methane sensors. “There are new technologies emerging,” Biraud said. “We’ll invite companies to participate, then deploy some of them over a one-year period.”

With observations and data analysis from the tiered observation system framework developed in Kern County, Berkeley Lab researchers will perform an economic analysis, looking at cost-effective ways to deploy some of these technologies to address certain questions in other parts of the state.

Another important aspect of the project includes stakeholder and community engagement. “We’ll be reaching out to disadvantaged communities, both to educate them on methane emissions and also to hear about their concerns in order to inform the development of future measurement systems,” Biraud said. “These communities are affected disproportionately by  and VOCs [volatile organic compounds].”

 

Berkeley lab project to pinpoint methane ‘super emitters’, by Julie Chao, Phys.org, May 21, 2019.