Researchers at IBM recently offered an inside glimpse into how the company’s energy team is developing software products and services for utilities looking to get ahead of the power grid’s transformation to a more distributed future. The company’s software offering is still very much under development but already has a name — Opus — reflecting more than 15 years of thinking, plotting and anticipation at IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center here, within an hour’s drive of New York City.
But environmental cases produced the one noticeable blemish on the administration’s record for the year — a reversal from a year ago when the Justice Department largely prevailed in environmental cases but lost other closely watched decisions. On the last day of the term, the high court in a 5-4 vote said U.S. EPA should have considered the $9.6 billion price tag of its landmark Mercury and Air Toxics Standards for power plants before moving forward with the regulations. The decision, by the court’s conservative wing, was considered narrow in scope because nearly 70 percent of the industry is already in compliance with the mercury rule and the court did not completely invalidate the regulations. But the decision was nevertheless a setback for the agency, which must now reconsider the regulation’s costs.
Facebook is building a massive data center in Texas to provide more computing capacity for the online social network’s 1.4 billion users to share tidbits of their lives with friends and family. The first phase of the $500 million project in Fort Worth, Texas will span about 500,000 square feet. It will be located on a nearly 111-acre site, leaving ample room for further expansion. Facebook Inc. initially expects to employ 40 people at the data center, which will rely solely on wind power to keep its computer servers running.
Last week’s Supreme Court decision on U.S. EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards will have no bearing on the future of the agency’s flagship carbon rule, and may even be corrected through simple adjustments to the toxic emissions rule, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said this morning. McCarthy acknowledged that she was “disappointed” by the high court’s decision eight days ago remanding the 2011 mercury rule back to a lower court on the grounds that EPA should have considered cost sooner in its rulemaking process.
Siemens will on Thursday start an energy project to convert wind power into hydrogen for re-use as a general fuel or in natural gas pipelines. Siemens’ electrolysis plant in Mainz is based on Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) technology, which allows the capture and storage of electricity into hydrogen. It said the plant can process up to 6 megawatts of electricity, making it the biggest PEM installation of its kind worldwide and able to supply 2,000 fuel cell cars.
Five massive structures that will be attached to the ocean floor for the nation’s first offshore wind farm are coming to Rhode Island. Deepwater Wind is building a five-turbine wind farm off Block Island, with the ability to power 17,000 homes as early as next year. The steel foundations were built in Houma, Louisiana. They’re being shipped north on three barges, with each structure in two large pieces.
The first barge is expected to leave Friday and arrive at the site by mid-July, depending on weather, said Deepwater Wind CEO Jeffrey Grybowski. The foundations will be installed by mid-September, he added.
The White House has slightly reduced its estimate for the social cost of carbon (SCC) in response to public comments that officials collected more than a year ago. The Office of Management and Budget posted its revision of the controversial estimate Thursday, immediately before the Fourth of July weekend. Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs Administrator Howard Shelanski and Maurice Obstfeld, a member of the Council of Economic Advisers, said in their post that lowering the SCC from $37 to $36 per metric ton of CO2 for 2015 was the result of minor technical revisions in the modeling used to arrive at the estimate.
Questions will likely cover EPA’s Clean Power Plan proposal to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, the agency’s final rule to change the scope of water bodies in the United States that receive automatic protection under the Clean Water Act and EPA’s review of the national ozone standard. McCarthy will be the sole witness.
The Democrats’ bill will build off last month’s letter to all 50 governors, in which 45 senators sought feedback on policies to spur clean energy investment, modernize infrastructure, reduce pollution and boost research funding, according to a spokeswoman for Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), the ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
The $18.7 billion settlement agreement announced this morning for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill promises to set off an unprecedented effort to repair the Gulf of Mexico’s marshes, fisheries and deep sea corals, but it will be, at best, only a first step toward restoring the long-ailing ecosystem, the region’s environmentalists say.