California & Hydroelectric Power

A very good article about it from the Water Power Magazine.

An excerpt.

Against a backdrop of diminishing environmental standards at the federal level, America’s states are taking the baton. In September, California’s outgoing governor, Jerry Brown, signed into law a mandate requiring the state to derive all its power from renewable energy sources by 2045. Brown at the same committed California to achieving total “carbon neutrality” by the same year. In doing so the Golden State is creating a new gold standard for US decarbonization efforts.

Though the mandate was met with widespread praise, even its most ardent supporters have acknowledged the many challenges ahead in implementing it. For one, experts fear that operating exclusively from intermittent resources, such as solar and wind, may prove unreliable – harming the grids ability to meet baseload demand or causing it to rely on battery storage, which is currently prohibitively expensive for mass deployment.

So how might the reliability gap be bridged? The grid’s incumbent hydropower capacity could offer a partial solution. Hydropower is generally closer to baseload, more reliable and, importantly, will contribute to California’s renewable goal of 100% by 2045. Before intermittent sources can prove consistent, hydropower may see some upside. This, we believe, is more likely to come in the form of favourable contracts with utilities rather than new projects – which remain costly and time-prohibitive.

The US hydropower renaissance

The US hydro fleet, despite experiencing flat growth in total capacity since the 1970s, is experiencing a renaissance. It isn’t only in California, but across the country – with some of the nearly 2200 facilities commanding substantial earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) multiples in recent transactions, owing in part to their renewable characteristics but also to their very long asset lives; this, too, leads to these assets being more financeable on a standalone basis.

What’s causing hydropower’s resurgence? It has been partly driven by the low-power pricing environment, which has in recent years weakened the fortunes of merchant generators. This atmosphere has somewhat weakened the case for building greenfield generation in unregulated power markets, which in turn has placed greater emphasis on the maintenance of incumbent plants. And because hydro assets can remain profitable far longer than conventional generation and because they have predictable, relatively smooth capital spending patterns, they are in prime position to benefit.

Also, hydropower’s economic staying power is generally matched by its operational longevity. In fact, America’s largest generating facility, the Grand Coulee Dam, Washington, is over 70 years old. Longer asset lives allow hydro assets to survive weaker commodity cycles – providing price insulation to ratepayers, and providing a guard against refinancing risk to investors.

For California, too, longer anticipated asset lives should complement the ambitious mandate. Even assets with lifespans of 50-or-so-years can be prolonged thanks to a healthy diet of maintenance spending. Unlike a full repowering of a solar or wind project, which may be likely given the current age of existing generating facilities, this spending can be gradual.

Ensuring a reliable grid

As California’s energy mix changes, the grid’s load bearing ability – absent changes – could also fundamentally reduce. Coal generation has ceased (its last nuclear plant is slated for closure in 2024), and gas-powered generation faces headwinds. Retiring these energy resources will bring California closer to its goal, but finding a suitable replacement for these non-renewable assets could prove challenging.

Solar and wind assets look set to significantly benefit from the state mandate, but their dependence on ever-changing weather conditions mean they are inherently intermittent. While energy storage could provide the long-term solution, substantial technological advancements and an estimated 200-fold increase in batteries may first be necessary. Barring such improvements these assets may prove an unreliable alternative – a critical issue that requires a solution.

It is likely that these shortcomings will play some role in the more favourable conditions for hydro assets in the Golden State. For one thing, these assets are closer to baseload, meaning that resource risk is not nearly as problematic as for wind and solar. As variable generation comes online, the ability of hydro facilities to adjust their production and offer load following services is becoming invaluable. This flexibility can help ensure any unexpected spikes or troughs in demand can be met without disruption to the grid.

And while other resources are likely to depend on external storage to operate reliably, hydropower comes with its own battery. Currently, this energy storage capability distinguishes hydro from other renewable solutions – meaning they will likely accrue the most substantial benefits.

Hydro risks

Of course, hydropower’s renaissance is not to be overplayed: the capital costs and time associated with permitting and building new hydro assets remain prohibitive, at least for the foreseeable future. Though hydro assets may generate power without carbon emissions, the construction phase can be much more environmentally disruptive than some alternatives (solar assets, for instance). It’s our view, therefore, that without considerable – and not to mention unforeseen – incentives, any growth to hydro capacity would be restricted to incremental uprates.

Retrieved April 22, 2019 from



Posted in Shasta Auburn Dam, Water, Technology

Housing First Gone Terribly Wrong

The Housing First strategy—get people into housing then deal with their problems—for dealing with the homeless, is one we support, but it has to be done right, with adequate available support through the entire process, which, apparently was not done in this effort, as reported by the Washington Post.

An excerpt.

The SWAT team, the overdose, the complaints of pot smoke in the air and feces in the stairwell — it would be hard to pinpoint a moment when things took a turn for the worse at Sedgwick Gardens, a stately apartment building in Northwest Washington.

Police officers and social workers have become a regular sight in the lobby of Sedgwick Gardens, a landmark apartment building in affluent Cleveland Park where many tenants now receive rental subsidies

Police officers and social workers have become a regular sight in the lobby of Sedgwick Gardens, a landmark apartment building in affluent Cleveland Park where many tenants now receive rental subsidies.

But the Art Deco complex, which overlooks Rock Creek Park and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is today the troubled locus of a debate on housing policy in a city struggling with the twin crises of homelessness and gentrification.

Located in affluent Cleveland Park and designed by Mihran Mesrobian — the prewar architect behind such Washington landmarks as the Hay-Adams Hotel — Sedgwick Gardens was once out of reach for low-income District residents.

That changed two years ago, when D.C. housing officials dramatically increased the value of rental subsidies. The goal was to give tenants who had previously clustered in impoverished, high-crime areas east of the Anacostia River a shot at living in more desirable neighborhoods.

At Sedgwick Gardens, the effort met with wild success. As of February, tenants with city-issued housing vouchers had filled nearly half of the building’s roughly 140 units.

Mixed-income developments aren’t rare in the District, where officials often require that new buildings preserve some space for working-class residents.

But the situation at Sedgwick Gardens is different: Many of the new tenants are previously homeless men and women who came directly from shelters or the streets, some still struggling with severe behavioral problems.

The result has been a high-stakes social experiment that so far has left few of its subjects happy. Police visits to the building have nearly quadrupled since 2016. Some tenants have fled. In February, responding to complaints, the city began staffing the building with social workers at night to deal with problems that arise.

Some tenants with vouchers say they have been made to feel unwelcome by their new neighbors, a dynamic that has unavoidable undertones of race and class in a largely white neighborhood.

More established tenants contend that they support the goals of the voucher program, but that it has gone badly awry at Sedgwick Gardens, transforming the building into a dumping ground for people unprepared to live on their own.

Even some Sedgwick Gardens residents who receive public assistance say the complex was colonized by the city’s housing programs too rapidly and without sufficient oversight.

“It’s not about the voucher program. It’s not about racism. It’s about people’s conduct and behavior,” said Lorraine Starkes, 61, a formerly homeless woman who moved into Sedgwick Gardens using a voucher about two years ago.

Starkes, who is black, said some of her fellow tenants with vouchers were not properly screened by city officials before moving in. Now, she said, those residents have overwhelmed her new home and “are trying to turn it into a ghetto.”

The drama within Sedgwick Gardens’s red-brick walls exposes challenges and contradictions in the “housing first” policies for reducing homelessness that have been adopted by the District and many other cities.

That approach calls for placing the homeless in long-term housing without first requiring treatment for mental illness or addiction. Many experts say it is the best way to help people who have trouble helping themselves amid the chaos of homelessness.

But as housing first has emerged as a national policy consensus, some have begun to warn that it is being applied too broadly and at times with inadequate support for people who aren’t ready for the independence and responsibilities of living by themselves.

City officials insist those mistakes have not been made at Sedgwick Gardens, calling the disturbing incidents isolated cases.

“I think the reason the issues at Sedgwick Gardens came to a head is that there were a couple of residents that were causing a problem. That could have been true whether they had a voucher or not,” said D.C. Council member Brianne K. Nadeau (D-Ward 1), who chairs the council’s Committee on Human Services. “I want us to be careful not to demonize everyone who finds stable housing through a subsidy because not everybody who needs a subsidy is a criminal.”

Sedgwick Gardens is now nearly half-occupied with tenants who use housing-assistance vouchers.

Retrieved April 17, 2019 from

Posted in Homelessness

Seattle is Dying

That is the title of a brutal documentary about Seattle’s homeless and I urge you to view it. It is an hour long and parallels some of what is going on here in Sacramento.

The link to it is the second one in this article from City Journal.

An excerpt.

In Seattle, people are losing patience with city leadership over the homelessness crisis, but the frustration is running in both directions: the city’s political, cultural, and academic elites are conducting their own revolt—against the people.

Since the release of Eric Johnson’s documentary Seattle Is Dying, which depicts an epidemic of street homelessness, addiction, crime, and disorder, city elites have launched a coordinated information campaign targeted at voters frustrated with the city’s response to homelessness. Earlier this month, leaked documents revealed that a group of prominent nonprofits—the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Campion Advocacy Fund, the Raikes Foundation, and the Ballmer Group—hired a PR firm, Pyramid Communications, to conduct polling, create messaging, and disseminate the resulting content through a network of silent partners in academia, the press, government, and the nonprofit sector. The campaign, #SeattleForAll, is a case study in what writer James Lindsay calls “idea laundering”—creating misinformation and legitimizing it as objective truth through repetition in sympathetic media.

The key messages of the campaign include a number of misleading claims, including: “Seattle is making progress to end homelessness,” “1 in 4 people experiencing homelessness in our community struggle with drug or alcohol abuse,” and “[62 percent of Seattle voters believe] we are not spending enough to address homelessness.” All three contentions fail to meet basic scrutiny: street homelessness has increased 131 percent over the past five years; King County’s lawsuit against Purdue Pharma admits that “the majority of the homeless population is addicted to or uses opioids” (not one in four); and 62 percent of Seattle voters agree to the statement “we are not spending enough” only when it is directly prefaced in the polling questionnaire by the phrase “other cities of the same size are spending 2 to 3 times the amount that Seattle is and are seeing significant reductions in homelessness”—itself an unsubstantiated claim. (When the same question is presented neutrally, without the framing, support for “we are not spending enough” drops to 7 percent).

Nonetheless, the media have widely circulated or echoed Pyramid’s talking points. “New poll shows the majority in Seattle say we have a moral obligation to help homeless people, and we need to spend more,” declared Seattle Times data journalist Gene Balk. Catherine Hinrichsen, director of Seattle University’s Project on Family Homelessness, published “6 reasons why KOMO’s [Seattle’s ABC affiliate, which broadcast Seattle Is Dying] take on homelessness is the wrong one” in the local magazine Crosscut, arguing that the documentary “conflates homelessness with drug use, mental illness, and crime.” And Seattle mayor Jenny Durkan told reporters that “we have made a lot of progress” and dismissed the documentary as “an opinion piece.” Her office pushed the #SeattleForAll messaging on government social media channels.

Retrieved April 18, 2019 from

Posted in Homelessness

California Environmentalism, Part II

Wow, looks worrisome, according to this article from New Geography.

An excerpt.

Can the California grid handle the charging challenges for the EVs the state is promoting to be on the grid? The knee-jerk reaction to going green as fast as possible has the potential to crash California’s already fragile economy. No one’s even talking about the load it’s going to put on the current grid. The silence is deafening.

The Electric Load-Serving Entities (LSEs) in California that includes Investor Owned Utilities inclusive of such major entities as Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), Southern California Edison (SCE), and a multitude of Public Owned Utilities are mum on the subject.

The Golden State already has more than 50% of all registered EV’s in the United States on its highways and is moving to increase that number by millions in the coming years. Utility companies, that need to maintain the electrical grids’ capability to charge the batteries without crashing from overload, and the subsequent PUC increased rate changes to the pocketbooks of blue-collar workers, fret in their boardrooms about the impending foreseeable disaster on the horizon yet they present their “no-worries” face to the public.

The California State Assembly and Senate passed legislation that was signed by former Governor Jerry Brown requiring 100% of its electricity to be generated from renewables by the year 2045. Thus, no electricity generated from Nuclear or Natural Gas in California by 2045. Damn the torpedoes, they say. Full speed ahead!

Natural gas-fired power plants accounted for most of California’s in-state net electricity generation in 2018. However, to meet the 100% clean energy requirement by 2045, the base loading of natural gas and nuclear for electric generation will be gradually supplanted by increased renewable energy.

Recently the San Bernardino County’s Board of Supervisors slammed the brakes on big solar projects and highlighted a challenge California could face as it seeks to eliminate the use of fossil fuels. San Bernardino locals soundly voiced their objections to those land devouring, eco system disrupting, unsightly monstrosities that lead to higher electricity prices and lower property values for nearby residents, saying not-in-my-back-yard! So, with no places to locate the renewables farms, what’s next?

In the most likely event there will not be enough land permitted to build those huge intermittent electricity farms, and with continuously uninterruptable electricity generation now supplied by nuclear and natural gas disappearing from the grid, electricity will be required to be imported from other states to make up the deficiencies of limited in-state generation, obviously at a premium price for the blue collar workers.

The goal to have 100% intermittent electricity by 2045 has already driven up the cost of electricity to residents and businesses to be well above the national average. The scary trends for funds and oil are both fueling (no pun intended) the growth of the poverty, homeless, and welfare populations in California.

In California alone, intermittent electricity from low power density renewables is expensive to consumers. It has already contributed to California household users paying more than 50% more, and industrial users are paying more than 100% more than the national average for electricity.

Seems that few, especially the utility companies, have voiced an opinion about how the costs projections to supply the massive amount of electricity to charge 25 or 30 million vehicles in California would impact the blue-collar workers from obvious higher rates authorized by the PUC. It’s not just the total amount of electricity, but also transmission and fast-charging capacity that will need to be built at our current filling stations.

A Canadian engineer has walked through the math of the change to EVs, and concludes that to match the energy equivalent of a typical gasoline filling station today to service the 2,000 cars that those gas pumps could service in a busy 12-hour period, an electric filling station would require 600 of the 50kW chargers for a roadside station. Even that conservative estimate would require a $24-million investment at one station just for the cheapest chargers.

For those chargers, they would need about 30 megawatts of power from the grid. For those thinking that seems like an incredible amount of electricity, you’re right. Thirty megawatts is enough to power roughly 20,000 homes. In other words, powering these service stations of the future will require about the same amount of electricity as a city of 75,000 residents. Oh, and by the way, all that electricity, unlike off-hour home recharging, happens during peak-usage daylight hours. I see brownouts and blackouts in California’s future. Carry a bag lunch. This could get ugly.

In addition to the huge investments at the electric service stations, utility companies will have to spend gazillions of dollars building a new grid or billions to upgrade the grid to prevent it from crashing, which will further drive up the cost of electricity for everyone just so a few elites can drive Teslas and the like.

Retrieved April 17, 2019 from

Posted in Environmentalism

California’s Environmentalism

Excellent, and wickedly funny, article from City Journal about its over the edgeness.

An excerpt.

California, the Los Angeles Times recently reported, is building a “non-plastic future.” The state has outlawed or restricted single-use plastic bags, plastic drinking straws, and plastic cutlery. Future targets: plastic detergent bottles, unattached caps on plastic bottles, and polystyrene containers (typically used to hold restaurant takeout orders), which more than 100 California cities have already banned. Some legislators also want to ban travel-size shampoo bottles that hotels provide for guests.

Golden State consumers are schlepping groceries in their arms as if they’ve been sent backward to the pre-bag era, sucking on paper straws that quickly become sodden and useless, and smuggling plastic bags across the state line. Some Californians even take their own steel straws into restaurants. The Los Angeles Times reports that the plastic straw ban has created “a cottage industry of upscale straws and elegant carrying cases, along with such necessities as cleaning brushes, straw squeegees and dental-friendly silicone straw tips.”

Virtue-signaling flourishes in such an environment. Shoppers flaunt their reusable bags (which might carry disease), big business parades its green credentials, and lawmakers seek the approval of likeminded thinkers by enacting bans. Then-governor Jerry Brown acknowledged that “plastic has helped advance innovation in our society” when he signed the plastic straw ban last year. Then he scolded residents for our “infatuation with single-use convenience,” which has “led to disastrous consequences.”

The idea that plastic consumer goods cause a good deal of global pollution drives much of this regulation and prohibition. “Plastics, in all forms—straws, bottles, packaging, bags, etc.—are choking the planet,” Brown said at his bill signing. But the legend of plastic obscures its more mundane reality. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch has become a rallying point for environmentalists, but it’s made up mostly of lost fishing gear, “not plastic bottles or packaging,” National Geographic reports. Contrary to popular wisdom, the patch can’t be seen from outer space.

Ideally, of course, there would be no plastic in the ocean and none littering our land, beaches, city streets, and public spaces. But domestic bans can do little to reverse the buildup of plastic in the environment. Almost none of the plastic in the oceans comes from California. An analysis by Germany’s Hemholtz Centre for Environmental Research found that roughly 90 percent of ocean plastic enters the ocean via ten rivers—eight in Asia and two in Africa. Only about 1 percent of all plastic in the oceans is from the U.S.; California’s “contribution” to the mess is negligible.

The story with plastic straws is similar. Of that 1 percent, just “a tiny amount comes from plastic straws,” notes Reason TV’s Kristin Tate. The often-cited estimate that more than “500 million plastic straws are used each day” in the U.S. was made by a nine-year-old Vermont boy as part of a school project. The real number, according to Technomic, a food-service consulting company, is 170 million to 175 million.

As for plastic-bag pollution, Steven Stein, principal of Environmental Resources Planning, found that such bags make up only .04 percent of visible litter in San Jose and .06 percent in San Francisco—close enough to zero that no one would notice the improvement if those figures were, say, cut in half.

A natural solution to the plastic-waste problem could already exist. Microbes that devour plastic have responded to the growth in their food source and may have substantially reduced the amount of plastic in the ocean. The Environmental Defense Fund reports that “microbes eating plastic are already an important reason that the plastics numbers do not add up—the amount of plastic we see in the ocean is much less than the total amount of plastic calculated to have been piled and poured into it.” Genetic engineering of such bacteria could improve their plastic-eating efficiency and reduce the danger even further.

Retrieved April 16, 2019 from

Posted in Environmentalism

Homelessness and Mental Illness

There is a sad connection, which this article in the Sacramento Bee explains well.

An excerpt.

As a young, motivated resident in internal medicine, I began to moonlight in a freestanding, full-service psychiatric hospital. I became fascinated with the medical care of the psychiatric patient and the management of substance use disorders. In time, I became a director of Medical Services and Program Medical Director for Chemical Dependency Services and spent the better part of three decades developing expertise in the care of psychiatric patients.

This is why I support a mental health reform bill, Senate Bill 640, by state Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa).

Never did I imagine I would live in a state which would systematically allow patients with massive mental health needs to languish and deteriorate in the most unconscionable, abject circumstances. It was unthinkable to me as a young physician that, decades after I began my career, leadership in the State of California would –in the name of some abstract, misplaced notion of compassion – literally position the symptoms of major psychiatric illness as a guiding principle to be protected.

The very symptoms causing desperately ill patients to spill into our streets are being protected in the name of compassion. This is dialing back to a Medieval understanding of psychiatric illness and is absolutely outrageous, particularly in the era of effective treatments which can restore patients to stability.

As I have seen repeatedly, the patients themselves, when their thought disorders are stabilized, become furious that anyone allowed them to languish in abject conditions in the name of compassion. Paranoia, hoarding and the distorted motivation to seek and use powerful narcotics are elevated to protected status under California laws. The very symptoms that lead to progressive misery are privileged above the ability to step in to help. Every civilized society knows to intervene in spite of these symptoms to restore people to health.

It is anathema to the basic needs of civilization to allow the current situation to continue. Summer is approaching and I am terribly concerned about the continued deterioration of these ill individuals. The complete sanitation breakdown, rodent infestation and vector explosion are going to result in an infectious disease crisis. In Southern California, typhus is going to be even worse than our recent epidemics. Tuberculosis is going to massively expand. I predict we will see Yersinia pestis – the plague. And it won’t be just the homeless who are stricken.

This is not a housing or homelessness crisis; this is a mental health crisis. It is a deplorable insult to continue to see this glossed over in the press as somehow the result of expensive housing. Housing does not cause our communities to need to rake the grass in parks before children play to pull up hundreds of needles. Housing is not going to help the paranoid, poorly clothed manic or paranoid schizophrenic. In fact, the symptoms of these illnesses will cause the homeless to refuse to remain indoors and to accept help or treatment. To hear politicians maintain the rhetoric of a housing crisis is tantamount to reckless negligence and materially contributes to the misery and death of untold numbers.

Retrieved April 13, 2019 from

Posted in Homelessness

Salmon Hatchery Experiment

Very interesting story from the Redding Searchlight trying a new way to get hatchery salmon to the ocean.

An excerpt.

Will hatchery-raised salmon have a better chance of surviving their journey to the Pacific Ocean and back if they get a 75-mile head start?

That’s the question a three-year study hopes to answer for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and four partner organizations.

The plan Saturday is to release 180,000 salmon fry into the Sacramento River 75 miles downriver from the Coleman National Fish Hatchery. A tanker truck will take the young salmon from the hatchery outside Anderson to Scotty’s Landing in Chico for the fish’s intended journey to the ocean under the Golden Gate Bridge.

“If we can boost survival of the fish by even 20% to 40%, it’s a great step forward to add fish to the fishery,” said John McManus, president of the Golden Gate Salmon Association.

McManus said his group proposed the experiment to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the agency agreed to give it a try.

The fish will be funneled into a portable, floating pen in the river — guided by jet boats — so they can get used to the water and get their bearings before they’re set free.

The study will try to determine if the fish’s chance of survival will significantly improve without more of the salmon straying, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife says.

A control group of another 180,000 salmon fry is planned for release Thursday for a comparison of results, McManus said.

The study also will be a test for the fish’s homing instincts to see if they return up the Sacramento River or go elsewhere, such as another tributary. The fry each have a coded-wire tag the size of a grain of rice inserted into their snouts and when they return to spawn in several years, their carcasses can be retrieved by wildlife officials and the tag checked under a microscope.

Wildlife biologists won’t have to wait a full three years to find out if the experiment is working. Battery-operated acoustic tags have been surgically implanted into the gut of 600 of the fry — half in the control group and half in the trucked salmon — so transceivers in the river can monitor the fish’s progress.

Under current practices, a good number of the salmon reared and released from the Coleman hatchery are lost in their first 75 miles of swimming from Battle Creek and down the Sacramento River. There’s also a high mortality rate for the fish in years when there’s low water in the Sacramento River due to predators.

The salmon sent into the river this week should have a higher survival rate anyway because the river is murkier from the higher flows out of Shasta Dam, giving the fry better camouflage from their hungry predators, McManus said.

Retrieved April 11, 2019 from

Posted in Hatcheries