Thursday, February 25, 2010

Maricopa & Taft have energy cred

Maricopa and nearby Taft, members of the San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Partnership, boast a long history in the energy sector. Both sit on the eastern border of the Carrizo Plain National Monument and in what was once a bustling oil patch. This time of year, minus the rusting remnants of oil field activity, winter rains have colored the flat lands and accompanying rolling hills to look quite a bit like the southern portion of Denali Park. Likewise, the region has a sleepy feel. But no ambling brown bears.

A Sominex scenario wasn't always the case. Maricopa once had a gusher spewing oil uncontrolled for about two years. The well was capped in 1911 after creating a massive lake. Lakeview No. 1 spewed an estimated 9 million barrels, only 4 million of which were recovered.

Maricopa has some newer wells and active pumps, but few associate the town today with black gold or Texas tea. That may change. There have been reports of interest in drilling in or near the monument, but the company has encountered stiff opposition.

A bronze plaque memorializes the site. Bill Rintoul, late columnist for the Bakersfield Californian, wrote: "a short side trip off Highway 33 just north of Maricopa, along the old Taft-Maricopa Highway, leads to the oil-hardened, sand-bagged crater that marks the Lakeview gusher. The Trout Stream has long since dried."
Photo: Courtesy U.C. Berkeley Archives

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Why global warming should concern us all, Central Valley folk in particular

Why global warming should concern us all, Central Valley folk in particular

The Bakersfield Californian, February 22, 2010

As a concerned citizen, I always favor a healthy debate, but not a steady stream of tactical distractions that are designed to hide the truth, obscure the facts and divert attention away from the real issues. Unfortunately, that's what's happening in the debate about energy and global warming.

The fact is that the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and every major scientific organization in America, has studied decades of data and concluded our climate is changing due to man-made pollution. Some who never accepted this evidence now point to a few lines from the hacked e-mails of two British scientists to make their case. But, according to the Associated Press, the emails at the center of the so-called climate-gate scandal "don't undercut the vast body of evidence showing the world is warming because of man-made greenhouse gas emissions."

It is time for us to stop getting distracted by climate change deniers and start focusing our full attention on the important work of getting our economy back on track, improving our national security and restoring our air quality. Any energy and global warming solution must address three main issues: energy independence, job creation and limiting greenhouse gas pollution.

* High-value crops produced in Kern County, including almonds, citrus and grapes, will be most vulnerable to climate change because it takes a long time for those crops to mature, and they need predictable amounts of water. Climate change throws predictability out the window and with it could go billions of dollars of production.

* The working group of the California Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley concluded that it would take the following steps, among others, for the struggling Central Valley economy to become robust: Align region-wide economic development efforts in support of target industries: (1) agribusiness, including food processing, agricultural technology, and biotechnology; (2) manufacturing; (3) supply chain management and logistics; (4) health and medical care; (5) renewable energy; and (6) accelerate the adoption of renewable and clean energy in the San Joaquin Valley.

* Kern County has ample sun to take advantage of solar energy. The state's first utility scale solar farm broke ground in nearby Fresno County in August. Why can't Kern become a hub for solar manufacturing? The local economy must transition away from dependence on oil because oil is drying up. That's why even Chevron Oil has joined in support of the San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization, which is dedicated to creating a clean energy future in the region and creating green jobs at the same time.

* An economist at Cal State Fullerton, Jane Hall, estimates that the San Joaquin Valley spends about $22 billion in health care, lost days at work, lost days at school, and lost lives because of air pollution. Climate change will likely lead to more hot days and more smoggy days in the San Joaquin Valley. It means more sick kids, more days when workers won't be able to work outside and another huge drain on the region's struggling economy.

To achieve these goals will require smart legislation crafted with careful consideration of both economic and environmental impacts. Thankfully, stakeholders across the policy and political spectrum, including energy companies and environmental organizations, have come together to create a climate bill that includes a limit on carbon pollution and provides benefits for businesses, consumers, and agriculture.

Some with a vested interest in the way America currently buys and uses energy claim that solving climate change will limit our freedoms. Actually, it is just the opposite. The new energy bill allows for American businesses to decide how to keep their pollution in check. Instead of a top-down approach, such as a carbon tax or strict government regulation, the climate bill offers a bottom-up solution. With a market-based limit on carbon pollution, each factory and business can decide for itself how to limit its net carbon emissions.

The cap on carbon will create jobs by driving investment in clean energy technologies. Manufacturing solar panels and transforming local oil fields into an array of solar modules is hard work and demands a strong work force. The climate bill also creates real economic opportunity for farmers. Under the new climate legislation, farmers will be paid for reducing greenhouse gas emissions through methods including carbon sequestration, wetland conservation and methane capture. We need a climate and clean energy bill to boost our economy, create jobs, improve our national security and our air quality, and help us beat China and Europe in the race to create a global clean energy economy. Let's get it done.

Eric Holst is managing director of the Center for Conservation Incentives for Environmental Defense Fund. EDF received the California Rice Commission's "Circle of Life Award" in 2008 for partnering with California rice farmers to find solutions to global warming.

Cities and counties march toward energy efficiency

Members of the San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Partnership expect to begin work on energy efficiency retrofits provided by grants through the California Energy Commission in the coming weeks. The CEC is expected to approve Energy Efficiency Conservation Block Grant allocations early next month. The SJVCEO helped find retrofit opportunities and is working with the jurisdictions and Air District to get the allocations awarded.

The following is a list of projects from selected San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Partnership cities:

Will receive lighting retrofits at its Police Department, Community Senior Center, City Hall and Corp Yard. Older T12 lights will receive new electronic ballasts and more energy efficient T8 lighting. This means a switch to skinnier bulbs with less wattage and similar light output. The buildings will also receive motion sensors. The Police Department will receive a new 5-ton AC unit and the city will get new LED traffic signal bulbs and street lights.

Orange Cove
Will receive two pump retrofits for the waste water treatment plant, one a variable frequency drive, the other a premium efficiency motor.

Will receive AC units for City Hall and the Police Department and tankless water heaters, energy efficient windows, a new vending machine motor, a cool roof and variable frequency drives for the waste water treatment plants.
Photo: Hughson Police Department, Thom Clark

Thursday, February 18, 2010

SJVCEO to Exhibit at REXPO VI--come visit our booth!

March 11, 2010
8 am to 2 pm
Hilton Stockton
2323 Grand Canal Blvd. Stockton, CA 95207

The Greater Stockton Chamber of Commerce’s Green Team San Joaquin and Valley CAN (Clean Air Now) invite you to attend REXPO VI: Greening Main Street and learn how businesses can incorporate energy-efficient methods, recycling, water conservation and clean air values into everyday operations to reduce their cost of doing business. In addition, the event will showcase businesses and services that proactively promote environmentally sustainable business practices. Valley business leaders are in the unique position to lead by example and demonstrate that environmental consciousness and business prosperity can go hand-in-hand.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Valley misses out on energy efficiency awards

The California Energy Commission recently released details of two competitive grants under its State Energy Program. No Valley bid made the cut. The San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization assisted the City of Visalia on a proposal that would've helped Valley homeowners make their homes more energy efficient. The SJVCEO also assisted the City of Gustine on a proposal that would've helped downtown Valley businesses become more energy efficient.

For SEP 2, the municipal and commercial retrofit program, no Valley entity reached the minimum technical score of 280. Here is a list of the recipients, their scores and their award amounts:

  • Oakland-based Energy Solutions, 302.33, $ 5,949,739

  • Portland Energy Conservation Inc., 290.33, $ 18,808,717 (Portland, Ore.-based energy efficiency company)

  • Berkeley-based Quantum Energy Services & Technologies Inc., 288.67, $4,852,181

Gustine came in at No. 38 with a technical score of 149.67.

For SEP 3, the residential retrofit program, here are the recipients:

  • SMUD, 316.67, $19,969,421 (Sacramento utility)

  • Association of Bay Area Governments, 297, $10,750,000

  • Regional Council of Rural Counties (CRHMFA Homebuyers Fund), 293.67, $16,500,001 (Sacramento JPA)

  • The San Francisco Mayor's Office of Housing, 290, $2,993,029

Visalia came in at No. 14 with a score of 169.33. A plan by the Air District scored 232 to rank No. 7. Minimum technical score also was 280.

Areva CEO in Fresno on March 23

Areva CEO Anne Lauvergeon will speak at noon March 23 at the New Exhibition hall in downtown Fresno before the Economic Development Corp. serving Fresno County. Her topic is titled "Nuclear Energy and California’s Future.” Lauvergeon has been named one of Forbes Magazine's 10 Most Powerful Women. According to the EDC, she is a scientist by training and a leader by experience. She has been at the helm of Areva since 2001. Tickets are $35 for EDC Members, $45 tickets for general admission. Additional information is available on line at

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Cooler technology prevails on roofing projects

California law now requires builders to apply roofing material that stays 50 to 60 degrees cooler than conventional black torch-down product to new flat- or nearly flat-roofed commercial buildings. The same applies to existing buildings getting new roofs. The cool roof regulations (part of Title 24 Section 10-113 in California's Code of Regulations) became effective more than four years ago and have driven quite a bit of industry sophistication. The Oakland-based, operated by the Cool Roof Rating Council, offers educational courses, product reviews and a long list of members involved in the roofing industry. The bottom line is cool roofs save energy. The payback isn't fast, but reduced utility bills come immediately after installation. The SJVCEO is working with the City of Delano to put cool roofs on two fire stations. The process is similar to any roofing project. For one, it's not cheap. But the outcome is a reduction of greenhouse gasses in the long run and less expensive building to operate in the Valley's severe climate. The Cool Roof Rating Council explains the technology using a white T-shirt analogy: A cool roof reflects the sun’s heat and radiates it back into the atmosphere, keeping a building's internal temperature cooler. Whereas a black traditional hot-tar roof, like a black T-shirt, absorbs more heat. And the CRRC says a cool roof need not be white. "There are many 'cool color' products which use darker-colored pigments that are highly reflective in the near infrared (non-visible) portion of the solar spectrum." Expect to see roofing crews install more light-roofed buildings around the region.
Graphic courtesy Cool Roof Rating Council.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Historic preservation triggers added grant information

Applicants for Energy Efficiency Conservation Block Grant money have more work to do. The State Historic Preservation Officer requires that any small city or county receiving the stimulus money must submit added detail on the buildings in which energy efficiency retrofits will take place. The California Energy Commission released the news Friday. This means applicants must submit a detailed list of retrofits along with the name, address, construction date and a photograph of all buildings getting new lighting, AC systems, thermostats or other upgrades. The information is to satisfy Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, which specifies that any measures on a historic structure accommodate historic preservation. All of the retrofits involving the members of the San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Partnership do not involve buildings on the historic register. However, members must still supply the state with the information.
Photo: Hotel St. Benedict Flats in Chicago courtesy the National Register of Historic Places.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

State awards Dinuba stimulus loan

Dinuba and five other California jurisdictions will receive more than $7.9 million in low-interest federal stimulus loans to pay for energy efficiency projects, state officials said Tuesday. The California Energy Commission also approved loans for the cities of Ventura, Monterey and Fairfield, the County of Alameda and the Portola Valley School District. "Low-interest loans at 1 percent are one of the best ways a local government can stimulate their community's economy and help slash their energy costs for long-term benefits," said Karen Douglas, chairman of the California Energy Commission, in a statement. She said the loans can help leverage Energy Efficiency Conservation Block Grant money, enabling jurisdictions to get "the most bang for their buck."

  • Dinuba received a $611,000 loan to install energy-efficient motors, pumps, lighting systems and controls to improve the efficiency of its wastewater reclamation plant, a project that will save the Central San Joaquin Valley city more than $88,000 a year in energy costs, CEC officials said. It will save enough money to repay the loan in seven years.

  • The largest loan will go to Fairfield, which will use $3 million to upgrade more than 8,000 street lighting fixtures throughout the city. The conversion is expected to save the city about $241,000 a year on its electricity bills, and it can repay the loan from its energy savings alone in 12.5 years. PG&E, its utility, also will provide a $99,000 incentive for the project.

  • Monterey will use its $1.5 million loan to change tunnel, bike path and street lights from high pressure sodium lights to more efficient induction lights to cut its energy bill by $121,000 annually.

  • Ventura will use a $500,000 loan to upgrade interior and exterior lights, improve the cooling system at city hall and install server cooling controls at the city data center, cutting the city's electricity bill by nearly $75,000.

  • The County of Alameda will add a 250 kilowatt photovoltaic system to the roof of the Castro Valley library with the help of a $1.18 million ARRA loan. PG&E will add about $520,000 in incentives to help cover the project's $2 million cost. The electricity generated by the solar system will reduce the county's power use by $90,600 a year, allowing the loan to be repaid from energy savings within 13 years.

  • The Portola Valley School District will also install rooftop photovoltaics, using a loan of nearly $1.1 million. The loan amount covers about half of the cost to install 280 kilowatts of solar power at Corte Madera and Ormondale schools, a system that will supply 68 percent
    of the schools' power and save the district nearly $84,000 a year in energy expenses. The remainder of the project's funding will come from a California Solar Initiative Rebate of $129,000 and money from a Qualified Schools Construction Bond.

Photo: Dinuba Vocational Center courtesy City of Dinuba.

Nuclear energy warms on Obama's accolades

The climate could be warming to nuclear power. President Obama gave the long-demonized energy source a nod in his State of the Union speech last week, saying "to create more of these clean energy jobs, we need more production, more efficiency, and more incentives.” He said his vision includes the renewal of our nation’s nuclear energy industry after a 30-year hiatus. That's good news to proponents of nuclear power, including those in the San Joaquin Valley. It's sparked a bit of controversy, however, as can be seen in this story from And more is expected. The debate comes to the Valley next month with a visit by Areva Chief Executive Anne Lauvergeon. SJVCEO board member Steve Geil, president and CEO of the Economic Development Corp. serving Fresno County, mentioned her speaking engagement at last month's board meeting and encouraged all to attend. Fresno Bee columnist Bill McEwan also got into the game, writing about the increased activity surrounding nuke plant proponent John Hutson. Hutson is a partner in a Fresno-based group seeking to land a plant in the Valley. reported last month that French-based energy corporation Areva and Fresno Nuclear Energy Group LLC have signed a letter of intent to develop a nuclear power plant project.

SJVCEO sends jobs message to vice president

The SJVCEO has been busy lately. Submitting and servicing grants and getting ready to put American Recovery and Reinvestment Act money to work. Rollie Smith, field office director for U.S. Housing and Urban Development in Fresno and SJVCEO board member, thought we ought to get the word out. When the White House put out a call for reports on how ARRA money was creating jobs, we wrote up a short passage and sent it, via Rollie, to Vice President Joe Biden's office. Over the weekend, the vice president announced the creation of about 600,000 jobs in the fourth quarter of last year directly as a result of Stimulus spending. We hope to add to that total soon.

Here's what the SJVCEO submitted to Biden's office for possible use as an anecdote in future releases: