Floating solar in U.S. reservoirs could produce 10 percent of the nation’s electricity #ActOnClimate

Photo credit: CleanTechnica.com

From EUCI.com:

Floating solar panels on 24,000 man-made reservoirs in the U.S. could generate 10 percent of the nation’s electricity and avoid gobbling up 8,100 square miles of land with ground installations.

One of the challenges with large-scale deployment of wind and solar generation is the land requirements but shifting to floating photovoltaics (PV) could offer one solution, according to researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

“In the United States, it’s been a niche application, where in other places, it’s really been a necessity,” said Jordan Macknick, the lead energy-water-land analyst for NREL and principal investigator on the project. “We’re expecting it to take off in the United States, especially in areas that are land-constrained and where there’s a major conflict between solar encroaching on farmland.”

The findings of the researchers appeared in the journal, Environmental Science & Technology.

The 24,000 reservoirs identified as suitable for floating solar represent 27 percent of the reservoirs and 12 percent of the area of all man-made bodies of water in the contiguous U.S., the study said.

Floating PV systems covering just 27 percent of the bodies of water identified as suitable could produce 10 percent of the country’s current electric generation…

While the idea has not been widely adopted here, as of December 2017, there were seven floating PV sites in the U.S.—Japan has 56 of the 70 largest floating installations in the world. There are more than 100 worldwide.

The floating PV comes with added benefits, including reduced water evaporation and algae growth in the reservoirs, the researchers said.

The NREL team also found that operating floating PV alongside hydroelectric facilities yields increased energy output and cost savings because of existing transmission infrastructure.

“Floating solar is a new industry enabled by the rapid drop in the price of solar PV modules,” Adam Warren, director of NREL’s Integrated Applications Center, said in a statement. “The cost of acquiring and developing land is becoming a larger part of the cost of a solar project. In some places, like islands, the price of land is quite high, and we are seeing a rapid adoption of floating solar.”

Eagle whitewater park ready for #runoff

From The Vaily Daily (Randy Wyrick) via The Aspen Times:

The river part of Eagle’s ambitious river park is done, and even the fish appear to be happy about it.

Hobbs Excavating crews recently finished the fourth of four in-river features.

S2O Design, one of the world’s premier river engineering and whitewater design companies, designed the in-river features.

“This setting matches the river’s natural morphology and utilizes the existing river channel really well,” said Scott Shipley, the founder and president of S2O Design. “It will surely be a new focal point for the town.”

[…]

The in-river part of the project took two years to build, but the process started long before that with a feasibility study, then design and a detailed hydraulic modeling. The first two features were built last winter and spring when the water was low.

Crews were back in the water last fall, and finished the other two river features in late December. The features create waves, eddies, chutes, and drops to play in for anything from tubes to surfing, standup-up paddling and kayaking.

The park was the first built with S2O’s RapidBlocs that allows the features to be fine-tuned depending on water flows. That will lengthen the boating season in the park…

S2O also designed the riverbank improvements, and included a bypass channel around the two upper features serving as a recreational safe route and a fish migration pathway, and mid-stream fish channels in the lower section so fish can migrate upstream.

After Colorado Parks and Wildlife expressed some concerns about fish migration, the two features built this winter were modified, with crews installing concrete half hemispheres to make it easier for the fish to move…

In 2016 Eagle voters approved a 0.5 percent sales tax to pay for the park and trail improvements. The entire park is scheduled for completion later this spring.

The latest #ElNiño/Southern Oscillation (#ENSO) diagnostic discussion is hot off the presses from the CPC

December 2018 ENSO model predictions.

Click here to read the discussion:

ENSO Alert System Status: El Niño Watch

Synopsis: El Niño is expected to form and continue through the Northern Hemisphere spring 2019 (~65% chance).

ENSO-neutral continued during December 2018, despite widespread above-average sea surface temperatures (SSTs) across the equatorial Pacific Ocean. In the last couple of weeks, all four Niño indices decreased, with the latest weekly values at +0.2°C in the Niño-1+2 region and near +0.7°C in the other regions. Positive subsurface temperature anomalies (averaged across 180°-100°W) also weakened, but above-average temperatures continued at depth across most of the equatorial Pacific Ocean. The atmospheric anomalies largely reflected intra-seasonal variability related to the Madden-Julian Oscillation, and have not yet shown a clear coupling to the above-average ocean temperatures. Equatorial convection was generally enhanced west of the Date Line and suppressed east of the Date Line, while anomalies were weak or near average over Indonesia. Low-level winds were near average, while upper-level wind anomalies were westerly over the eastern Pacific. The traditional Southern Oscillation index was positive, while the equatorial Southern Oscillation index was slightly negative. Despite the above-average ocean temperatures across the equatorial Pacific Ocean, the overall coupled ocean-atmosphere system continued to reflect ENSO-neutral.

The majority of models in the IRI/CPC plume predict a Niño3.4 index of +0.5C or greater to continue through at least the Northern Hemisphere spring 2019. Regardless of the above-average SSTs, the atmospheric circulation over the tropical Pacific has not yet shown clear evidence of coupling to the ocean. The late winter and early spring tend to be the most favorable months for coupling, so forecasters still believe weak El Niño conditions will emerge shortly. However, given the timing and that a weak event is favored, significant global impacts are not anticipated during the remainder of winter, even if conditions were to form. In summary, El Niño is expected to form and continue through the Northern Hemisphere spring 2019 (~65% chance; click CPC/IRI consensus forecast for the chance of each outcome for each 3-month period).

#Drought news: Slight improvement in the San Juans, San Luis Valley, degradation in Adams and El Paso counties, and along the Great divide into #Wyoming

Click on a thumbnail graphic to view a gallery of drought data from the US Drought Monitor.

Click here to go to the US Drought Monitor website. Here’s an excerpt:

Summary

A strong upper-level low resulted in surface low development along the western Gulf Coast on January 3. This low pressure system then tracked northeast to the mid-Atlantic by January 5, maintaining excessive wetness across much of the lower Mississippi Valley and Southeast. However, southern Florida remained mostly dry as short-term dryness worsened. Onshore flow returned to the West Coast by January 5, resulting in rain and high-elevation snow. Although widespread precipitation occurred across coastal areas of Washington, Oregon, and northern California, 7-day amounts averaged below normal north of Eureka, California. Above-average precipitation amounts were observed across the southern half of California and the Southwest. According to the Natural Resources Conservation Service (WYTD), snow water equivalent (as of January 7) is at or slightly below normal across Arizona and New Mexico basin-wide for the water year. As an area of upper-level low pressure shifted east across the western U.S., a surface low and associated warm front crossed the Midwest and Great Lakes on January 7. The heaviest weekly amounts (more than 1 inch, liquid equivalent) were recorded from Wisconsin north to the upper peninsula of Michigan…

High Plains

Following a week of widespread snowfall, mostly dry weather prevailed across the northern and central Great Plains. Based on a reassessment of departure from normal precipitation at varying time ranges (60 days to 6 months), moderate drought was reduced in coverage across North Dakota and limited to areas with the largest deficits. Elsewhere, across the Dakotas, no changes were made to the ongoing D0 areas…

West

Beneficial precipitation, with locally heavy high-elevation snow, continued across the Four Corners region into the first week of the New Year. Based on recent precipitation, near to above-average precipitation during the past 6 months, and SPI values near normal, abnormal dryness was removed from southeast Arizona with a slight reduction in the coverage of D1 and D2 where recent amounts were heaviest. Small areas of improvement also were made across southwest Colorado. Cortez in Montezuma County has received about an inch above normal precipitation since the beginning of the water year, supporting an upgrade from D4 to D3. In the San Luis Valley, recent precipitation prompted an improvement from D3 to D2. These areas of improvement are limited to the lower elevations since snowpack remains slightly below normal at the higher elevations. During the past week, local precipitation amounts exceeded 1 inch (liquid equivalent) in Unitah County, Utah where D3 was improved to D2. Farther to the north and east, little to no precipitation and above-average temperatures resulted in an increase in D1 across Adams and El Paso counties of north-central Colorado and an expansion of D0 from north-central Colorado into southern Wyoming. Abnormal dryness (DO) was removed from north-central Montana in early December. However, it has remained dry since that time and D0 may need to be reintroduced in the coming weeks.

Onshore flow continued to bring widespread rain and high-elevation snow to the West Coast during the first week of the New Year. However, ACIS indicates that precipitation has averaged below normal during the past 30 days across a majority of the Pacific Northwest and California. Santa Barbara and Ventura counties received another round of heavy precipitation (locally more than 2 inches) this past week, producing mud slides in burn-scarred hillsides. An increase in water storage on Cachuma Reservoir was noted. Based on recent precipitation and 12 to 24-month SPIs, a decrease in the coverage of D3 was made to these counties in southern California. According to SNOTEL, basin snow water content (SWE) remains below 75 percent of normal across the southern Cascades where D2 to D3 is designated. Recent heavy precipitation and only small precipitation deficits at 60 days prompted removal of abnormal dryness across parts of western Washington…

South

Widespread moderate to heavy precipitation (0.5 to 2.5 inches, liquid equivalent) fell across the lower Mississippi Valley and parts of the southern Great Plains for the second consecutive week. The recent precipitation during an ideal time of year for soil moisture recharge resulted in the removal of any lingering abnormal dryness (D0) across northeast Oklahoma and northwest Arkansas. However, the long-term drought area in the Texas Panhandle remained mostly west of the heavier precipitation and south Texas remained dry during the past week. Short-term abnormal dryness (D0) and moderate drought (D1) were expanded in southern Texas where 90-day deficits ranged from 1 to 4 inches.

One week drought change map through January 8, 2019.

New weather station to help with SW #Colorado “blind spot”

Graphic credit Cliff Vancura via The Durango Herald and Rocky Mountain PBS.

From The Durango Herald (Jonathan Romeo) via The Cortez Journal:

It’s official: A permanent weather radar system for Southwest Colorado and the Four Corners is on its way.

Recently, the Colorado Department of Local Affairs awarded $1.7 million in funding for permanent radar system, clearing the biggest obstacle in the project’s path.

“Funding was the big piece, and the state has been incredibly committed to and generous with this project because they recognize the need and value for all of Southwest Colorado, and beyond,” Megan Graham, spokeswoman for La Plata County.

The Four Corners has long been known as a blind spot when it comes to weather and radar modeling, as major hubs in Albuquerque, Grand Junction and Flagstaff take in data at elevations too high to accurately hone in on areas around Durango.

In Grand Junction, for instance, the radar system on Grand Mesa can’t pick up storms that come into the Four Corners at elevations below 28,000 feet, which causes weather forecasters to miss a good amount of incoming storms.

For years, there has been a desire to bring in a radar system for the region. But the need became critical after the 416 Fire last summer created unprecedented flood danger when storms hit fire’s burn scar.

DOLA recognized this need in granting the money.

“It’s very important for you guys to be able to know with radar what’s coming,” said Natriece Bryant, a spokeswoman for DOLA, “because notification is key to be able to prepare and recover when necessary.”

Chuck Stevens, interim La Plata County manager, said there’s no set timeline for when the radar system will be functional, but those invested in the project would like to break ground this spring…

The next big hurdle is finding the right spot for the radar system, Graham said.

The radar system needs to be set up in a location that both maximizes coverage while at the same time, is near infrastructure and utilities…

A group was formed, comprised of members of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, La Plata County, and the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, to select a location that makes the most sense, Graham said.

Gov. Polis selects Summit County Commissioner Dan Gibbs for #Colorado Department of Natural Resources

Dan Gibbs via Twitter.

From The Summit Daily (Deepan Dutta):

Gov. Jared Polis announced Wednesday that current Summit County Commissioner Dan Gibbs will serve in his cabinet as the next executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. The announcement was made a day after Gibbs was formally sworn in for his third term as commissioner.

In the coming weeks, Gibbs will sit for a confirmation hearing before the state Senate’s Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. If the committee approves the appointment, Gibbs’ nomination will go before the full state Senate for confirmation.

If confirmed, Gibbs would head one of the state’s most important departments. The Department of Natural Resources oversees the Colorado Avalanche Information Center; the Division of Forestry; the Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety; the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission; Colorado Parks and Wildlife; the State Land Board; the Colorado Water Conservation Board; and the Division of Water Resources…

Gibbs said that he plans to implement the governor’s vision for protecting and enhancing the state’s natural resources. As a certified wildland firefighter who has guided the county’s effective fire mitigation efforts, Gibbs plans to make wildfire mitigation a priority at the state level, along with other duties vested in a position that oversees a huge chunk of the state’s economy and cultural heritage.

Developers stall Lower Basin #Drought Contingency Plan negotiations #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

A canal delivers water to Phoenix. Photo credit: Allen Best

From The Arizona Republic (Ian James):

The outstanding issues, some of which are proving contentious, range from developers’ concerns about securing future water supplies to lining up funding for Pinal County farmers to drill wells and begin to pump more groundwater.

A disagreement has also flared up over the terms of an “offset” provision that involves leaving water in Lake Mead to boost the levels of the dwindling reservoir.

These complications will force more talks geared toward achieving a consensus as the state Legislature begins session Monday and starts working on legislation that would authorize Arizona’s participation in a Drought Contingency Plan, or DCP, with Nevada and California.

Gov. Doug Ducey has called for the parties to quickly wrap up a deal, saying that with a critical shortfall imminent on the river, “we cannot kick the can any further.”

But at a meeting of the state’s steering committee Tuesday, the to-do list still appeared long. And several members of the committee voiced pointed disagreements on provisions that have yet to be finalized.

Last month, federal Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman set a Jan. 31 deadline for Arizona and California to finish their agreements and sign on. She said if the states fail to meet that deadline, the federal government will get involved and step in to prevent reservoirs from falling to critically low levels…

[Tom Buschatzke] and other water managers began the meeting Tuesday with an overview of where water levels stand in the river’s main reservoirs. Lake Powell is now 41 percent full, while Lake Mead is 39 percent full, just above a level that would trigger a first-ever declaration of a shortage.

They also reviewed a list of issues that have yet to be resolved, some of which relate to concerns of farmers in Pinal County, who have the lowest priority and face the biggest cuts in water deliveries.

The farmers had expressed worries about taking especially large cuts in the scenario of a more serious “tier 2” shortage at Lake Mead, and Tucson city officials have proposed to help in that scenario by providing the farmers up to 35,000 acre-feet of water per year for two years. (An acre-foot is 325,851 gallons, enough to cover a football field with a foot of water.)

“We believe it’s a prudent thing to do to give the certainty to Pinal agriculture that they’re seeking on volume in the first three years,” said Timothy Thomure, director of Tucson Water. He said city officials will help finish the Colorado River deal while presenting no risks to the city.

To make the deal possible, the city would ask that water credits in the Tucson groundwater management area be transferred to the city in exchange for credits it would get in Pinal County.

He said Tucson is also asking for reforms affecting how treated sewage effluent figures in the state’s framework of water laws. One of the changes, Thomure said, would be to eliminate a 2025 “sunset” provision on water agencies’ ability to get storage credits for effluent. The city is also seeking more long-term storage credit when effluent is used to replenish groundwater.

Buschatzke called it a “very creative proposal” and said he expects more talks will be needed to work out the specifics…

Representatives of developers have been pressing for a provision conditionally granting them a certain amount of water — 7,000 acre-feet per year — for the first three years of a shortage. Ted Cooke, general manager of the Central Arizona Project, supported the idea and said this provision for an additional water supply would go away if the Drought Contingency Plan is signed.

As the developers have proposed it, the conditional water supply would be included to backstop a larger deal that’s already set to free up more water for future development — just in case the plan isn’t signed in the end.

In that larger $95 million deal, the council of the Gila River Indian Community agreed last month to sell up to 33,185 acre-feet annually to the Central Arizona Groundwater Replenishment District for 25 years starting in 2020 — enough to supply more than 99,000 homes based on the average water use in the area. The transfer would take effect once Arizona signs the Colorado River deal.

That Gila River Indian Community’s water deal was welcomed by developers because it secures water supplies for more growth into the 2030s, said Spencer Kamps, vice president of legislative affairs for the Home Builders Association of Central Arizona.

“But having said that, like everybody around the table, we’re seeking certainty. And there is uncertainty on the DCP plan going through the legislative process,” Kamps said. “My members are seeking certainty as it relates to investment from, you know, our corporate offices.”

He said developers want to be sure that when a shortage is triggered “that there is a reliable supply.”

“The concern from us is the uncertainty if anything were to happen, obviously, moving forward with the DCP plan, and it wasn’t satisfactory to either the governor or whomever,” Kamps said. “And I think that’s a reasonable request, to ensure that development can move forward regardless of the conditions on the lake during this 7-year program.”

The developers’ proposal was firmly opposed by Buschatzke, who said adding that amount of water for three years would upset the “delicate balance” that has been negotiated in the plan. Buschatzke also said: “I’m not sure where that water would come from.”

Cynthia Campbell, a water adviser for Phoenix, called the developers’ proposal “unthinkable” and said the city won’t support it.

“We don’t have enough water to go around for all the contract holders,” Campbell said. “Why would you start talking about adding new parties to the dole? That’s crazy.”

Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis of the Gila River Indian Community said he thought the issue of future water supplies for development had been dealt with already. He said the council’s resolution approving the water deal is “self-executing” once Arizona signs the Drought Contingency Plan. He offered to consult with his council and send a letter clarifying the point.

Donald Pongrace, a lawyer for the Gila River Indian Community, said after the meeting that the developers’ proposal “would create a precedent of providing water out of priority that we and all other CAP contract holders would find objectionable.”

Lewis’ offer of sending a letter to clarify that the signing of the Colorado River agreement will trigger the water transfer should be sufficient to resolve the issue, Pongrace said, though he said it’s “unnecessary and somewhat insulting to the community’s integrity and overall participation in the process.”

[…]

Another issue that drew opposition from Lewis and Buschatzke was a proposal by CAP officials regarding the “offset” component of Arizona’s plan, which involves deducting some water supplies from a Lake Mead storage account and replacing those supplies on paper with water from other sources.

Originally the idea had been a water exchange between CAP and Salt River Project, but CAP officials have instead proposed an alternative in which their agency would keep the stored water in their account. Pongrace said that’s likely a nonstarter for the Gila River Indian Community because it would give the CAP board discretion to use the water as it sees fit, and potentially take the water out.

“It’s basically calling something conservation that isn’t,” Pongrace said. “It’s the equivalent of financial gimmickry, and we will not accept it.”

Despite the disagreements and the short timetable for drafting legislation, Cooke and Buschatzke both expressed optimism about finishing a deal.

“We’re going to work on things between now and when the legislature starts, and we’re going to work on things after the legislature starts,” Cooke said. “I think we’re closer than we’ve ever been, and I think we’re in closure range, definitely.”

Cooke said CAP and state water officials will work with legislative staffers to draft the package of legislation, and the idea is to keep it simple. The legislation is to include a resolution approving Arizona’s participation in the Drought Contingency Plan together with California and Arizona, as well as other measures outlining funding for the plan and several other changes that will be necessary to make it work.

From the Associated Press via KGUN9.com:

An Arizona committee looking for ways to divvy up cuts from the Colorado River water supply says it has about a handful of issues to settle…

Farmers, cities, tribes, home builders, state agencies and others on the committee met Tuesday. Their goal is to save up to 700,000 acre-feet of water over seven years.

The Arizona Daily Star reports that farmers in Pinal County want more water and certainty in funding for groundwater wells.

Homebuilders also want extra water until a deal with a tribe is finalized.

Two Arizona water utilities remain at odds over water stored in Lake Mead.

The Arizona Legislature must approve the complex plan.