How EPA Data Keeps Citizens Safe

The Trump administration is trying to kill the EPA.  Concerned citizens are saving the EPA data to preserve what our tax dollars have accumulated.

Originally published on The Climate Reality Project.

You might have heard about “data rescue” events happening around the country over the last several weeks. Librarians, data scientists, archivists, coders, and other volunteers are coming together to download and archive federal datasets. But why?

To understand why thousands of people are doing this, first let’s talk about what sort of data the federal government provides. Right now, agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Department of Transportation, and more publish datasets as well as infographics, interactive tools, maps, and reports to display and communicate what they know about what’s happening with our land, our water, our health, our infrastructure and more to the public.

As citizens, we’ve paid taxes to support the collection, analysis, and publication of this information. And it’s been a critical resource for scientists to use for their research and reporting. For example, scientists can click through to the EPA’s site to get information on pipeline spills, then cross reference it with infrastructure reports from the Department of Transportation to identify potential danger points for future spills.

It’s not just scientists or researchers using this data. It’s available as a resource for all of us. Let’s say you’re moving to a new town in a state halfway across the country. Information from federal agencies can help you easily answer questions like “Can I drink the water? Do I know my child’s school wasn’t built anywhere near a dangerous chemical plant?”

So, citizen activists from all backgrounds and areas of expertise are coming together to “rescue” the data – archiving the webpages and downloading raw information to safely store on a publicly-accessible website for anyone – anyone – to access in the future. Regardless of the decision of an administration or agency makes, people have a right to access the data. And fortunately, citizens working to rescue data are helping to preserve that right, no matter what.

What does that look like? Let’s get specific. Here are four data sources recently saved at DataRescueDC and how they’re used to protect people around the country.

1. TOXICS RELEASE INVENTORY (TRI)

The Toxics Release Inventory is a set of publicly-available databases containing information on the release of specific toxic chemicals and their management as waste. It requires facilities in certain industries which manufacture, process, or use significant amounts of toxic chemicals, to report annually on how they release them. The reports contain information about the types and amounts of toxic chemicals released each year into the air, water, and land and by underground injection. The inventory also details information on the quantities of toxic chemicals sent to other facilities for further waste management.

2. NEPASSIST

NEPAssist is a tool that facilitates the environmental review process and project planning in relation to environmental considerations. The web-based application draws environmental data dynamically from EPA geographic information system databases and web services and provides immediate screening of environmental assessment indicators for a user-defined area of interest. These features contribute to a streamlined review process that can raise important environmental issues at the earliest stages of a project’s development.

This tool has been so successful in helping assess the overall environmental impact of large projects that it has been replicated in other countries.

3. FACILITY REGISTRY SERVICE

The Facility Registry Service provides quality location data to support EPA’s mission of protecting human health and the environment. Through the service, users can easily learn more about facilities, sites, or places of environmental interest subject to regulation.

Here’s an example. The Facility Registry Service connects to the US Department of Energy, so you can see fuel consumption for a power plant near your home. And, you can see EPA data about the air pollution it emit. With that information, you can compare the environmental costs of coal-fired power plants versus natural gas power plants.

Power plant data isn’t all the registry provides. By also offering wide-ranging information on pollution from a huge number of factories, plants, and more, the site helps businesses trying to cut their emissions and become more sustainable learn from each other and see the best practices that work.

4. EPA ENVIROATLAS

The EnviroAtlas is an interactive tool with geospatial maps containing 100 layers displaying data in areas like land use, land cover, climate change, habitats, and more. Through the tool, you can practically time travel using its enormous catalog of historical data, allowing users to compare the impacts of climate change, understand regional ecological difference, and learn more about biodiversity over the years. This long-view perspective helps us gain insight into the impacts of the climate crisis and habitats on ecosystems over time, highlighting how climate change is affecting the country.

WANT TO SAVE THE DATA?

These are just four tools among countless more that help people understand the safety of their own communities. So when it comes to policy decisions, access to this information is vital to helping make smart decisions that protect our air, water, and health. Think of it this way: without the right data, even the best-intended decisions can result in unforeseen negative consequences. Data – and open data, specifically – give us the tools to make the best decisions possible.

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Why The US Army, Navy, & Military Veterans Love Solar

When our soldiers are asking “why are we here” and the answer to them is oil, that is a problem.  With the introduction of renewable energy into the US military, our soldiers are seeing the great benefit of renewable energy.

Originally published on Solar Love.

Donald Trump says he wants to create American jobs, but he is cool to the idea of renewable energy, which he claims is “too expensive.” Don’t tell that to the US military, however. Last year, the Navy broke ground on a 4 megawatt (MW) solar array at the Naval Construction Battalion Center in Mississippi and the Army completed a large 30 MW solar array at Fort Benning, Georgia. Many soldiers deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan have seen first hand how human and economic resources are wasted to protect fossil fuel assets. After serving, they are also finding jobs in the solar industry.

As it turns out, solar power has become cheaper than fossil fuels and solar jobs have been flying through the roof — a dozen or so times faster than overall US job growth.

Largest Coal-Fired Generating Plant West Of The Mississippi To Close In 2019One such soldier is Kevin Johnson, a West Point graduate who has served in Iraq and seen first hand the ferocity of attacks on oil wells and pipelines by insurgents. “For me, that was a key wake-up call,” Johnson said. “You have 100 soldiers asking you every day what we’re doing there, and it was hard not to see the combination of the economy of Iraq being based on oil exports and the attacks there on the infrastructure.”

His experience led Johnson to believe that protection of fossil fuel assets would continuously put American soldiers in harm’s way. After his tour of duty, he committed himself to learning all he could about clean, renewable solar power. Now he runs CleanCapital, a renewable energy investment firm he founded with, among other partners, a fellow Army veteran.

“The most challenging thing for veterans is that transition process and finding that same level of mission-driven culture in their professional careers,” Johnson says. “The solar industry, specifically, provides that.” Today, almost one out of every ten veterans have found jobs in the solar industry. Many like Nat Kreamer have formed their own companies. Kreamer is chairman of Solar Energy Industries Association. He is a former Navy officer who received a Bronze Star for his service in Afghanistan. Under his leadership, the solar sector has committed to hiring 50,000 vets by 2020.

According to Think Progress, Americans are now twice as likely to be employed in the solar energy industry as in the coal industry. Last year, more than 51,000 people in the United States were hired to design, manufacture, sell, and install solar panels, according to a new report from The Solar Foundation. That means the solar industry created jobs 17 times faster than the economy as a whole. “In 2016, we saw a dramatic increase in the solar workforce across the nation, thanks to a rapid decrease in the cost of solar panels and unprecedented consumer demand for solar installations,” said Andrea Luecke, The Solar Foundation’s president and executive director.

solar energy panelsNick Boateng has his own story to tell. “I served in the active Army for eight years, three months and 28 days,” says Boateng, a veteran now working in solar. “From the experiences that I had, I noticed that one of the main reasons we were fighting these conflicts was resources.” His military service piqued his curiosity about solar power but it was not until he visited his ancestral home in Ghana that he became a true solar convert. While he was there, Ghana was suffering from rolling blackouts, but Boateng discovered one home that managed to keep its lights on. “I was curious how that house wasn’t running a generator but still had electricity,” he says. “When I went there, I noticed they were running a solar PV system.”

That inspired a dream of erecting solar installations all across Ghana, but he had no expertise in the industry. So he signed up for classes through the GI bill and managed to get a job at the Los Angeles office of GRID Alternatives, a nonprofit that performs free solar installations in economically deprived communities. “Right now, my primary job is here in California,” he says. “The project I’m working on in Ghana is a progressive thing that I am phasing in over time.” Boateng’s dream merges perfectly with pop entertainment star Akon, who is putting his fame and resources into bringing solar microgrids to parts of Africa that have never had reliable access to electricity. For more on that, see our Akon exclusives:

If Donald Trump believes the way to put Americans back to work is by having them dig coal, he is either lying to himself or the American people. Or both.

Donald Trump and his alternative fact cronies may have a harder time pushing their corrupt agenda with the military turning against them.  Soldiers do not have a horse in the game, so for them it is easy to see solar is the future, not coal.

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Silicon Energy Storage Technology Scales Up for Commercial Production

Energy storage is an important factor when it comes to renewable energy sources.  With solar energy, power is produced only while the sun is up and the solar panels are absorbing the rays.  This energy needs a place to be stored for night time use.

Corporate Renewable Energy PPAs Could See Big Year In Australia, Says EnergeticsOne of the most abundant elements on earth is being used to create an energy storage system that can heat homes as well as store electricity.

South Australian company 1414 Degrees has developed technology to store electricity as thermal energy by heating and melting containers full of silicon at a cost estimated to be up to 10 times cheaper than lithium batteries.

Silicon is the second most abundant element in the earth’s crust after oxygen.

A ton of silicon can store enough energy to power 28 houses for a day.

Its high latent heat capacity and high melting temperature of 1414 C – make it ideal for the storage of large amounts of energy.

The process also generates large amounts of clean useable heat, which can easily be utilized for district heating or industrial purposes.

1414 Degrees has created a full prototype ready for commercialization in Adelaide, South Australia, of its patented thermal energy storage system (TESS).

The company completed its first trials in September with a small prototype test system using about 300kg of silicon to store about 150 kW of energy.

It is now scaling up its technology to grid-scale thermal energy storage systems with potential to dramatically improve the efficiency of wind and solar farms and will launch the first commercial machines this year.

1414 Degrees Chairman Dr. Kevin Moriarty said the company was waiting for AusIndustry, a division of the Federal Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, to sign-off on the 10-MWh project in February so manufacture could begin.

California Solar Farm Produces Power At Record Low PriceHe said the company has two target markets: a device capable of storing 10 MWh of energy is targeted at industry, while the second 200-MWh device was suitable for a wind farm, large solar array or gas-fired power station.

As well as its ability to stabilize South Australia’s electricity supply, which relies heavily on wind power, the system is likely to appeal to northern European countries because of its ability to store the wind energy of a cold Scandinavian night while keeping residents warm and running their computers the next day.

Australian CleanTech Managing Director John O’Brien said energy storage would undoubtedly be a very significant part of the energy system as nations moved towards low- or zero-carbon targets in the next decade or two.

He said the relatively cheap price of silicon and its ability to be used over and over would help keep the overall lifecycle price down.

“The main alternative at the moment is large-scale lithium batteries — there’s plenty of lithium around as well and there’s some very large companies with massive factories producing lithium batteries,” O’Brien said.

“But if they can scale up what they are doing with silicon then that certainly has potential.

“Clearly the sun doesn’t shine at night and the wind doesn’t blow all of the time so we have to think a bit more carefully about how we manage it.”

This article was originally published by The Lead under a Creative Commons license and was edited for style and content. Read the original article here.

The storage of power is half the battle with clean energy sources.  Advancements in energy storage will greatly help the push towards green energy.

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Solar Energy “Historic” Job-Creating Pace Endures, For Now

Solar jobs are booming, for now.  Trump and the “oil” cabinet may put a huge dent into the solar energy job growth.

solar installationSolar energy jobs are booming, according to the non-profit Solar Foundation. The organization’s annual National Solar Jobs Census for 2016 showed that the solar industry’s contribution to the national employment picture is significant, adding up to one out of every 50 new jobs created last year.

That kind of firepower makes the solar workforce a political force. President Donald Trump has already riled up practically the entire tech industry over the Muslim ban, with more than 100 top companies joining the ACLU and other stakeholders in a legal battle against it. Provoking the solar industry could yield similar results.

The 2016 National Solar Jobs Census

The Solar Foundation has described last year’s solar jobs growth as running at a historic pace, and they’re not kidding:

The National Solar Jobs Census 2016 found that solar industry employment growth outpaced the overall U.S. economy by 17 times as it increased by over 51,000 jobs, for a total of 260,077 U.S. solar workers.

Percentage wise, the industry achieved a growth rate of 25% over 2015. That beats the rate of growth for every other Solar Foundation census going back to the first one in 2010.

Solar Energy Can Surprise You

On a state by state basis, California came in first for highest number of total solar jobs. That’s no surprise given its size and its favorable policies for solar energy and other clean tech.

California is also staking out a leadership position in terms of making solar energy affordable. The new solar seed fund RE-volve, for example, chose the University of California – Santa Barbara as one of three launch sites for a nationwide affordable solar program.

Of the remaining top five job-creating states for solar energy, three may surprise you. Texas, Florida, and Nevada all made the top five despite the outsized influence of Republican party members on energy policy in those states.

The state of Massachusetts is also a bit of a surprise. Unlike the other top five, Massachusetts can hardly claim fame for a warm, sunny, solar-friendly climate. However, this deep blue state shows that favorable policies can counterbalance less than ideal conditions.

Political Force Aligns For Solar Energy

Trump Administration Spurs Solidarity Wake-Up Call In US & AbroadThe Trump Muslim ban is being decided in court today, following on the national uproar that erupted after Trump’s January 27 executive order abruptly stopped entry to the U.S. by citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries, even those with valid green cards or visas.

The problem for the Trump Administration is that global culture is firmly entrenched in the US, especially in recent years as global connections have flourished alongside the growth of the tech field.

The Muslim ban effectively united the tech industry, workers, and consumers all together in a common interest.

As the culture of solar technology becomes more deeply embedded in the American energy landscape, a similar kind of connectivity is emerging.

Here’s the Solar Foundation President and Executive Director Andrea Luecke connecting the dots:

…the solar industry is an American success story that has created hundreds of thousands of well-paying jobs…In 2016, we saw a dramatic increase in the solar workforce across the nation, thanks to a rapid decrease in the cost of solar panels and unprecedented consumer demand for solar installations. More than ever, it’s clear that solar energy is a low-cost, reliable, super-abundant American energy source that is driving economic growth, strengthening businesses, and making our cities smarter and more resilient.

US Vets For Solar

Speaking of solar jobs, some of the political force supporting continued growth in the solar industry could come from an important sector of the population, US military veterans.

The solar industry positioned itself as a veteran-friendly opportunity throughout the Obama Administration, and last year the Solar Foundation pumped the hire-a-vet scenario up a notch or two.

In partnership with the outgoing Obama Administration, last spring the organization rolled out a new program called Solar Ready Vets. Based on a 2015 pilot program, Solar Ready Vets is designed to train active duty military for solar jobs before they reach the end of their stints. That way they can hit the ground running after their discharge.

The jobs are certainly out there if the growth rate continues. Here’s the rundown from the 2016 Solar Jobs Census:

Solar job growth in 2016 took place in all job sectors, including a 26 percent growth in manufacturing companies to 38,121 jobs nationwide. Installation jobs increased by 14 percent to a total of 137,133 jobs. Project development jobs increased by 53 percent to 34,400 jobs, while sales and distribution jobs increased by 32 percent to 32,147 jobs.

The 800 pound gorilla in the solar jobs room is President Trump, but if nationwide reaction to the transparently bigoted Muslim ban is any indication, it looks like nothing can stop solar jobs from continuing to grow this year.

How much money can a solar roof save you in California?

Hopefully the will of the people will prevail by continuing the solar growth our Country has experienced over the last couple of years.  States such as California continue to lead the way in solar energy.

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