August 18, 2016 – Volume 18 #5

In This Issue

Flanigan’s Eco-Logic

Reader Comment

Elon Musk Make Waves

Tesla Town

IKEA Joins Green Power Partnership

The Carbon XPRIZE

PACE Comes of Age


EcoMotion YouTube Videos

$100 Million More for STEM

Electric Vehicles in China

Drones and Burial Grounds

Flanigan’s Eco-Logic: The End of Wastewater

Patrick Sheilds is quite a guy. He’s a water worker. Busy, experienced, witty, and fun when he wants to be! We quickly order burgers… a chore given the Counter’s endless choices. And then we’re off to the races, catching up and swapping industry notes on batteries. Today, the sun is shining, we also talk families, careers, fulfillment.

Patrick’s primary job at Irvine Ranch Water District is operations. As Executive Director of Operations, he’s responsible for supplying water to a half million people, and taking away and processing all the resulting wastewater to boot.  Today, IRWD supplies potable and recycled water, and treats wastewater. The District has three sets of pipes in place: 1,622 miles of potable water distribution, 509 miles of recycled water distribution, and 1,019 miles of wastewater collection.

A California Special District, IRWD was formed in 1961. It serves 20% of Central Orange County, providing services to the cities of Irvine, Newport Beach, Costa Mesa, Tustin, Orange, and Lake Forest… an area of 181 square miles. The District has 27 wells, 36 reservoirs to serve a daytime population of a half a million people.

A fellow Irishman, Patrick talks about the expansion of the water filtration plant that he is building for IRWD… a $200+ million state-of-the-art recycling facility. He’s into it, completely enmeshed in construction details. Sure, there will be cost overruns, he explains, but the facility will come on line soon, an integral plan for IRWD’s resource recovery master plan.

When Patrick was a young professional in the water utility world, he recounts that his job was to get “wastewater” to the sea as quickly and inexpensively as possible. (After all, it’s waste if there is no good use for it.) Today, the term “wastewater” is nearly obsolete, certainly in Irvine. Today, not a drop of water in Irvine is “wasted.” There is no such thing as wastewater that needs to go “away.”

In 1963, IRWD’s visionary Board of Directors had a novel idea. Why not create a recycled water system?  Why not have a dual-pipe, water distribution system? To do so, the Board directed management to develop a “color palette” to clearly depict between potable, recycled, and wastewater. Irvine then worked with the American Water Works Association to make this color scheme a national standard. It is now known as “Irvine Purple.”

In Irvine, all wastewater , biosolids, biogases, are recovered and reused thanks to Irvine’s nationally acclaimed purple pipe, water reclamation system. This “supply” now provides 21% of the water delivered in the service territory, sold to more than 4,000 customers. In addition to irrigation for landscaping, highway medians, etc. there are some commercial buildings in Irvine using recycled water in their toilets.

Patrick also points to the irony of his District’s highly successful conservation efforts. As with conservation in the power sector, less use means less sales that translates into lost revenues for IRWD. Far less wastewater is getting to his treatment and recovery plants, and the wastewater that does get there is more concentrated, harder to clean. So for IRWD, conservation equals both leadership and a new set of challenges.

Quote of the Week

“Drones can be used to tickle nuclear plants into instability.”

Vincent Kessler, Reuters

Reader Comment: Hydro-Quebec’s GHG Emissions

Hi Ted,

I was just reading your July 20th EcoMotion newsletter and wanted to pass along some data you may not have seen. 

Contrary to assertions by Hydro-Quebec (HQ) that their hydropower dams emit nearly zero GHG emissions, which is then repeated by the Canadian government, as well as U.S. EPA, there are methane emissions from HQ’s hydropower dams resulting from the flooding of peat lands. The emissions are not be as high as fossil powered plants, but they are significantly higher than what HQ claims.


According to a 2012 Synapse Energy Economics report documenting these findings, hydropower facilities in boreal climates result in emissions of 160 – 250 kg CO2e/MWh versus 400 – 500 kg for natural gas plants, and up to 1,200 kg for coal plants. Synapse also found that hydro plants that are created by flooding tropical rainforests result in greater lifecycle emissions than traditional fossil-fueled power plants.


Michael Totten

Elon Musk Continues to Make Waves

So much Elon Musk in the news…. He’s in space, even thinking of colonizing Mars, producing a growing line of EVs that will include a light-weight pickup, a heavy truck, and a bus. He’s at the spear-point of the hybrid electric building movement that could eliminate the need for conventional electric utilities. He’s also pondering advanced transportation from the infamous Hyperloop to a new kind of bus experience. And there’s more: Last month, Musk laid out his “Master Plan,” his for vision what some have dubbed his “clean-energy empire.” Musk is building the world’s first 21st century energy utility.

Also last month, Gigafactory 1 was christened, its first production months ahead of schedule. It’s being built by 1,000 workers with double shifts and seven-day-a-week schedules. When totally built out in 2020, it will produce 103 GWh of battery capacity annually, enough batteries for 1.2 million Model 3s. (Two points of reference: Tesla sold 50,000 Model S vehicles in 2015. The public reserved a half million Model 3s in a matter of weeks last year.) Better yet, analysts believe that Musk will have driven down the cost of batteries by 70%, down to $38/kWh of storage.

Then there’s the $2.8 billion acquisition of SolarCity (the solar energy company run by Musk’s cousin, Lyndon Rive, and chaired by Musk) by Tesla Motors (of which Musk is the CEO). According to the Huffington Post, they “need each other’s manufacturing muscle and marketing savvy.” Right off the bat, each of Tesla’s 200 showrooms will soon be selling two products… cars and solar.

Then there is the plan for Tesla’s build-out of a network of Supercharger stations for up to 20 EVs at a time. Some say that they look more like drive-in theaters than gas stations. The first is in operation in Nebbenes, Norway, just north of Oslo. Another is under construction in Freemont, California.

Musk is also developing a roofing system for homes that would be entirely solar. SolarCity plans to offer new roofs for homeowners who are putting off solar because of their older roofs. While there are no plans or schematics, Musk’s vision is a completely new roof that would generate power for home and car, and be even more durable.

Tesla Town

The world’s first Tesla-powered town is being planned and built in a suburb of Melbourne, Australia. In the outskirts of Melbourne’s central business district, the development is known as YarraBend, named after the river that runs through it. The property is being developed by the Glenvill Property Group; Glenvill is seeking the highest possible rating for Australia’s Ecologically Sustainable Development system.

Each house will feature solar panels and a 7 kWh Tesla PowerWall energy storage device. Each of 2,500 planned houses will reduce water by 43%, landfill contributions by 80%, and residents will be able to charge their electric vehicles for free.

Source: YarraBend

YarreBend is a “smart-wired community.” It features high-speed internet as well as a “tech concierge service” for homeowners. The YarraBend App will host community information such as public transport timetables, home delivery menus, carpooling arrangements, and social events. The community also features gardens, trails, and an elevated park known as the Paper Train, reference to the site’s former paper mill.

In related news, the University of Illinois at Champagne-Urbana’s Cyber Resilient Delivery Consortium has created an educational program called Tesla Town.

IKEA Joins Green Power Partnership

IKEA U.S. has joined the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Power Partnership.  It’s 42 stores in the United States rank #6 on EPA’s Top 30 Retail List of green power users. Kohl’s Department Stores tops that list; Kohl’s uses 1.4 billion kWh of green power followed by Starbucks, Wal-Mart, Ahold USA, and IKEA.

IKEA currently has 328 stores in 28 countries, plus 40 franchises. Its stores in the United States consume 183 million kWh of green power, 72% of their combined power consumption. This is done with solar and wind. IKEA U.S. has solar arrays at almost 90% of its locations, it uses geothermal energy to heat and cool two stores, it has purchased and now operates two wind farms with a total of 104 turbines, and it has completed a biogas-powered, fuel cell system at its Emeryville store.

Solar Panels on a Kohl Store in Arizona

EPA’s voluntary program encourages organizations to use green power. There are more than 1,400 partner organizations voluntarily using over 30 billion kWh of green power. These partners are then categorized in ten different sectors. All are ranked based on the number of green kWh they buy. Other categories are Top 10 in Federal Government, Top 30 Colleges, and Top 30 K-12 Schools. Another category is the “Top 10 for Onsite Generation”… topped by Wal-Mart and Apple.

Nationally, the Top 100 list is topped by Intel that buys and consumes 3.4 billion green kWh annually. Intel is followed by Microsoft, Kohl’s, Cisco, and Google.

The Carbon XPRIZE

Teams Around the World Take on the Carbon XPRIZE

While the XPrize it best known for spurring space innovations, now teams of researchers around the world are presenting their theories and designs for pulling CO2 out of power plant emissions, and turning it into useful products… from cooking oil to graphene!

The NRG COSIA XPRIZE is sponsored by NRG – the major U.S. energy company based in Houston — and the Canadian Oil Sands Innovation Alliance. With $20 million in prize money, the CO2XPrize has drawn 47 proposals to put power plant emissions to profitable use, from Canada, China, Finland, India, Scotland, Switzerland, and the United States.

Teams will advance through rounds of competition. Ultimately, the select teams will use actual power plant emissions from a coal-fired power plant in Wyoming, or a gas-fired plant in Alberta.

A team from UCLA proposes to make a 3D printed building material called “CO2NCRETE” with half the carbon dioxide emissions of typical concrete production. Another U.S. team – called Protein Power – plans to use CO2 to grow niche microbes for use as fish food in aquaculture. The winner will get $7.5 million.

PACE Comes of Age

Cumulative Residential PACE Dollars Securitized

PACE, Property Assessed Clean Energy, has come of age. While far from a tipping point in its widespread adoption, PACE is proving to be an effective means of financing property improvements with no money down, repaid on property tax bills over time.  And in the event that the home or business owner moves, the assessment – or lien on the property – is passed along to the next owner.

PACE began in California in 2008 with the passage of AB 811, and has since been enabled by legislation in 32 states plus the District of Columbia. Sixteen states have active PACE programs. There are 2,059 cities with PACE programs that have been through a resolution and validation process. Once a fledging program concept, combined residential and commercial financings are nearly $2.3 billion to date, delivering over $2.2 billion in improvements to 104,000 households and $250 million financing retrofits of 750 commercial buildings. PACE has created 22,000 clean energy jobs.

Of the residential activity, 58% of the funds provided have financed energy efficiency retrofits, while 37% has funded renewable installations, and the remaining 4% have been for water efficiency upgrades. A new development has been the broadening of PACE financing. In Santa Monica, PACE can now be used to fund energy and water efficiency measures, renewables, plus energy storage and seismic retrofits.

PACENation Executive Director, David Gabrielson, reports that last month, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) issued long-awaited guidance that leads to a path for broader availability of residential PACE financing throughout the United States. The agency, after thorough review, concluded that PACE is an entirely valid use of the local government assessment financing mechanism, used for decades by nearly 40,000 assessment districts throughout the U.S. to fund projects that benefit property owners and meet a clear public purpose.


Installation at Ted and Terry’s House

A couple of weeks ago, I had a SolaTube installed in our home. For those that have not basked in the light of a SolaTube… please consider where you might put one. They can truly enlighten your home or business. Here is the letter I wrote to SolaTube shortly after our installation.

Mike and Jay

Good morning and best to you both on a Monday morning.

The purpose of my writing is to send along our thanks for the opportunity to get a SolaTube. It is installed and it is a triumph, in less than two hours transforming our once-dark, interior stairwell. After the installation, Terry turned to me and simply said, “Why didn’t we do this years ago?”

Impressed I am by the technology, its evolution, and its installation. These things really work! Unlike skylights, I can now attest that SolaTubes do an excellent job of harvesting sunlight and aggressively directing it down a highly reflective tube through roof and ceiling. And the SunAire installation team was excellent in both work quality and customer communications and clean-up. 

Thanks for coming to present your product line to EcoMotion and for making me realize the opportunity right in front of me. What a great way to channel natural light into our lives… inspiring us to do some picture framing and to hang something special there.

From a most grateful fan of SolaTube, big thanks,


What’s Up at EcoMotion? YouTube Videos

Troy describes inspection techniques

For the past four years, EcoMotion has served as LA Metro’s solar consultant. In that capacity, we have explored the Agency’s many opportunities for solar. We have databased hundreds of sites, prioritized them for solar, while repairing and maintaining existing Metro solar installations.

For Facilities Maintenance personnel, EcoMotion maintains a solar hotline and provides periodic trainings. Most recently, our team prepared 13 instructional videos on commercial solar system maintenance. The videos feature EcoMotion Senior Solar Specialist Troy Strand and can be found at the following YouTube link.

$100 Million More for STEM

STEM is one of the leading providers of advanced energy storage systems, batteries to cut peak energy and demand charges. This past month, STEM announced that it had arranged for another $100 million to finance its systems so that consumer can get batteries just like they can get solar, for no money down. STEM now has a $350 million investment pool to draw upon. The recent investment was from the Starwood Energy Group Global LLC and will support STEM’s deployment at 200 Hawaiian schools.

STEM introduced its storage financing model in 2013 and now has 75 MWh and 480 projects deployed or under contact in America. It claims that its “intelligent storage systems” will cut peak energy use, lower peak demand, and thus cut power bills by ~20%.

Earlier this month, STEM was one of ten firms selected by Consolidated Edison of New York for a 22 MW demand response program. Other winners of Con Edison’s auction included EnerNOC Inc., Innoventive Power LLC, Direct Energy Inc., Power Efficiency Corp., Demand Energy Networks Inc., Energy Spectrum and Tarsier Ltd., a utility spokesperson said. Con Edison will pay prices ranging from $215 – 988 per kW per year for the demand-response services.

In 2014, STEM won an 85 MW contract to provide capacity services for Southern California Edison in the aftermath of the closure of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS). STEM provides battery solutions for customers, and then serves to aggregate its fleet of batteries to manage capacity requirements for local utilities and to provide grid services to system operators.

Electric Vehicles in China

BYD’s Electric Taxi

Booming! Last month’s sales of 34,000 EVs in China was 188% of the prior month. Further, total EV sales eclipsed 1% of total car sales in July. Now 1.1% of all cars sold in China are EVs… mostly made by BYD. (In the U.S., <1% of all sales are zero emission vehicles, EVs and hydrogen fuel cell configurations.)

All told, China expects to have 400,000 new EVs on its streets this year, representing 1.5% of the total fleet. At that time there will be 700,000 Chinese EVs, the largest EV fleet in the world, representing more EV sales than North America and Europe and greater penetration as well. Of the EV sales in China, 96% are purchases from domestic automakers. Tesla sells 2%, 1% goes to Porsche… The BYD Tang is China’s top-selling EV, followed by the BYD Qin.

In other EV news, there’s a Dutch Labour Party movement underfoot in the Netherlands to ban the sale of new cars fueled with gasoline and diesel, intended to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Legislation is expected for an outright ban by 2025. Germany is reportedly considering a similar move by 2030. In Norway, and thanks to generous incentives, a whopping 29% of all vehicle sales are currently zero emission.

Speaking of Drones and Burial Grounds

Scary news in the world of “unmanned aerial vehicles,” or drones. This week, a drone crashed into an Eskon nuclear power plant in South Africa.  There was no damage reported, but the perpetrator made a point. Unmanned drones with small payloads are a huge threat.

In France, drones have been spotted flying over 13 of France’s 19 nuclear plants. Articles in the press present the scenario of drones wiping out the distribution power at French nuclear plants, creating Fukushima effects.

Meanwhile officials in Santa Clara have mud of their faces. There, a solar farm is under construction directly on top of an Ohlone Indian burial ground. Indeed, San Jose State University records show that the site was registered as a burial ground in 1973. Officials are now taking steps to make sure that no remains are disturbed. Excavation will be limited to three feet and the solar panels would be installed by driving piles rather than digging, “which shouldn’t affect anything buried below too much.”