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Olduvai III: Catacylsm
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Western Grid Regionalization

Western Grid Regionalization

California and 12 other US states, plus parts of Canada and Mexico, are considering whether to expand the California wholesale grid and balancing area to include the entire region, in order to increase the flow of reliable, affordable, and renewable power across the West. This shift to a regional independent system operator, or ISO, would also expand resource flexibility, improve transmission planning and grid reliability, and enable a far larger share of renewable energy across the system. But it’s not without risk: Would a unified Western market kill the market for power projects sold under virtual PPAs outside its borders? Would it give project developers—or even coal plants—operating within the Western grid but outside California a competitive edge over California’s own renewable project developers? Would it become a loophole through which coal power starts being imported into California, after many years of effort trying to get rid of coal in the Golden State? Would California or any of the other Western states lose control over their own power production and consumption? And what about the five states that could join the Southwest Power Pool instead—what will they do?

These are complex questions with no easy answers, but our guest in this episode is an expert on the subject and ably walks us through all the pros and cons…and points the way to a potentially very different future for power markets in the American West.

…click on the above link to listen to the podcast…

Climate Science Part 9 – Jet Stream

Climate Science Part 9 – Jet Stream

In this ninth part of our mini-series on climate science, we turn to one of the key suspects in extreme weather events we have experienced in recent years—the shifting shape of the North Atlantic jet stream. And the fingerprints of the changing jet stream can be found in tree ring data. The guest in this episode has studied three centuries of European tree rings and found that the shape of the jet stream, along with clear deviations from historical weather, began in the 1960s, pointing to a connection to the changing climate. Other researchers have come to similar conclusions by studying things like the difference between Arctic and mid-latitude temperatures over time. And they conclude that increases in greenhouse gas emissions will make the jet stream increasingly wavy in the future, exacerbating such extreme weather events.

Geek rating: 3

Guest: Valerie Trouet received her PhD in Bioscience Engineering at the KULeuven (Belgium) in 2004. After a post-doctoral research position in the Geography Department at the Pennsylvania State University (2005-2006), she worked as a research scientist at the Swiss Federal Research Institute WSL (2007-2010).  She now is an Associate Professor at the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research at the University of Arizona and leads the Spatiotemporal Interactions between Climate and Ecosystems research group.  She is currently writing a broad audience book about tree rings, climate history, and human history under the working title “Treestory.”

 

Pathways to Deep Decarbonization

Pathways to Deep Decarbonization

As energy transition proceeds we’ll need to move well beyond decarbonizing electricity generation and into transportation and space heating powered by renewables. But we’re only beginning to figure out the pathways by which we might do that, and since each region has its own particular sources of renewable energy and its own particular needs for energy, the solutions may vary quite a bit from place to place.

When do we figure out how to decarbonize space heating and transportation? What sorts of challenges will we face in adding those loads to the electricity grid? How much additional generation, transmission, distribution capacity, and storage will we need? How will we manage such a grid? And what if, once we have transferred some of those loads to the grid, it actually starts to look cheaper to not electrify everything? Our guest in this episode has studied such questions for years, and has some surprising insights into how deep decarbonization might actually evolve.

…click on the above link to listen to the show…

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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