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San Onofre hearings in San Diego, the Solar Decathlon and cool graphics

September 30th, 2013 | by K Kaufmann | Comments

It’s looking like a busy week on the energy beat.

First and foremost — the California Public Utilities Commission is bringing its investigation of who will bear the cost for the closure of the San Onofore nuclear power plant to San Diego Oct. 1.  The commission will hold two public comment sessions – 2-5 p.m. and 6:30-9:30 p.m. — at Al Bahr Shriners Building, 5440 Kearny Mesa Rd., San Diego.

The public meetings are in advance of the commission’s evidentiary hearings Oct. 7-11 to “consider the removal from rate base of non-useful capital assets at SONGS” — industry shorthand for San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station — that is, we shouldn’t have to pay for a nuclear power plant we haven’t been using for more than a year and a half.

If you can’t make the hearing, you can listen in or stream it. The toll-free call-in number is 877-347-9604; passcode 771069. Audio webcast live or archived will be available here.

Then on Thursday, the Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon kicks off in Irvine for a two-week run, Oct. 3-6 and Oct. 10-13 at the Orange County Great Park. The decathlon is a biennial event, started in 2002 and held since in 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2011 — always in Washington, D.C., bringing together 20 collegiate teams that design and build prototype solar homes. This year is the first time it’s being held on the West Coast.

Even as I type, the teams are in Irvine, building away in preparation for the opening on Thursday, as seen in this overhead posted on the DOE’s decathlon website.

Aerial photo of the Solar Decathlon village under construction.

You can get a preivew of the teams and their houses here.

One of the homes I’m really jazzed about is called DALE, short for Dynamic Augmented Living Environment, a collaborative effort from the Southern California Institute of Architecture and California Institute of Technology.

This house looks totally cool and a perfect SoCal home for indoor-outdoor living.  A video about the house and how it works is available here.

The house from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, also has a very high desert look and feel to it.

In addition to the Decathlon, there will be a Clean Energy Expo. Get a look at the homes of the future — it’s worth the drive.

Finally, in the wake of the release of the first release from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for its 5th assessment – the Summary for Policy Makers –  on Sept. 27, there has been a flurry of graphics looking at who is producing the world’s greenhouse gas emissions and tracking some of their impacts.

Ivonne Pena, a graduate student in engineering at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh, has produced a graphic showing the growth and change in emissions from a sampling of 18 countries from 1960 to 2010.  So while the U.S. remains the top emitter overall, Pena notes, other countries emissions are now growing at a faster pace — China most noticeably.

She includes links to two other maps, which provide even more graphic illustrations on what’s happening on our planet.

On the Carbon Map, originally produced for a World Bank competition, you can see continents and countries expand and contract depending on their contributions to climate change based on their extraction, consumption and emissions from oil, gas and coal. The map also shows the areas where populations are most vulnerable to climate change — Asia totally balloons on this, while the U.S. is sucked in on itself, ending up as a weird-looking ink blot.

Then there are the animated maps from the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.  The maps here show carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel use and cement production from 1761 to 2001 in North America, Europe and Asia.  Each of the maps start in 1761 with each continent a flat plain of white, then as the time line starts to move into the Industrial Age, CO2 emissions show up like mountain ranges rising over the continents, till by 2001, certain areas are totally engulfed.

Solving the challenge of climate change will take more than the Solar Decathlon houses, but they are a good first step. If we can use our creativity to create sustainable solar houses, we should also be able to find substitutes for fossil fuels and get them to scale possibly faster than we think.

Now that’s a competition the DOE should sponsor.

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