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Well, whaddaya know. No sooner does New Jersey let slip that it has a new green hydrogen pilot project in the works, when here comes archrival New York right across the river with a whole truckload of green hydrogen news. And they do mean green hydrogen from renewable resources, not that other stuff the natural gas lobby is trying to pass off as “clean.”

Big Apple Goes Gaga Over Green Hydrogen

New York’s big hydrogen announcement is no coincidence. It piles onto the US Department of Energy, which dropped another $52.2 million on hydrogen R&D earlier this week. Most of the Energy Department greenbacks are aimed directly at teasing green hydrogen out of water. The rest apply to projects that extract hydrogen from natural gas, but the technology could also be applied to various forms of sustainable hydrogen, such as biogas.

New York is skipping over the natural gas part, which is no surprise given the state’s prickly relationship with gas, and going straight for the green hydrogen gold.

They have pulled some heavy hitters into the green hydrogen arena. The new announcement enlists the mighty New York Power Authority and the Electric Power Research Institute, which is based in California and has been pivoting from fossil fuels into renewable energy. The last time we checked in, EPRI was hooking into a huge EV and power grid consortium in Texas. Just yesterday they announced a new competitively selected cohort for their latest R&D incubator. The 20 winning startups will work on “demonstration technology projects intended to accelerate decarbonization, electrification, grid modernization, and other electric power industry innovation imperatives.”

NYPA and EPRI have been tapped with General Electric and the specialty gas firm Airgas in a green hydrogen pilot project to be located at a natural gas plant on Long Island, which almost sounds like it could be a natural gas-to-hydrogen project except not, because the project is aimed at measuring different blends of hydrogen in a natural gas turbine.

GE is one of several legacy engineering firms that have become active in the area of blending hydrogen and natural gas in gas turbines. One approach is to design new turbines that are specially made to handle an increasing proportion of hydrogen. The Long Island project is especially interesting because it deploys a 20-year-old GE gas turbine.

If it pans out, then gas power plants all over the country could begin transitioning to green hydrogen without having to invest in new turbines. That’s an important consideration for the US, which became splattered with new gas turbines after the cost of gas dropped in the early 2000s.

The good news is that low-cost gas provided the initial kick for driving coal out of the US power generation market. The bad news is that gas power generation stakeholders are stuck with relatively new gas turbines, but a growing number of leading electricity buyers and other ratepayers are demanding carbon-free electricity. The hydrogen blend idea could help get them off the hook until something better comes around.

Green Hydrogen For Deep Decarbonization

If you’re thinking fuel cell electric vehicles are part of the New York announcement, nope. Once they hit the road, automobiles fall into the category of decarbonization lite. Everybody knows how to decarbonize cars, at least from the tailpipe on out.

The motor vehicle supply chain is a whole ‘nother can of decarbonization worms. Whether you have a fuel cell electric vehicle, a battery electric vehicle, or a plain old gasmobile in your driveway, they all spew invisible bubbles of greenhouse gas from factories all along the supply chain, from tires and body to all the innards.

The solution is deep decarbonization, which refers to detaching heavy industries and other carbon intensive sectors from fossil energy. That’s a tough row to hoe. Hydropower fits some of the bill, including the all-important energy storage angle. Wind and solar can also lend a hand in combination with battery-type energy storage. Green hydrogen comes into the picture as a flexible, transportable energy carrier that can provide storage, generate electricity, or provide the juice for gas turbines and other thermal uses.

To tackle that end of things, The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority will be building up its ongoing deep decarbonization work. Last December the agency co-hosted a “Deep Decarbonization Workshop” with the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation. The new announcement sets up a more intensive look-and-listen session this fall. Here, let’s have NYSERDA explain:

“The session will be used to help NYSERDA understand how to expand stakeholder engagement to ensure that additional assessment of the pathways, opportunities, and challenges of generating and utilizing green hydrogen across all sectors includes consideration of all stakeholder perspectives, including environmental justice organizations and communities.”

The Hydrogen Economy Goes Green

Because hydrogen is an abundant, zero emission fuel, there has been talk of a global “hydrogen economy” or “hydrogen society” for ages. The problem is that hydrogen has to be extracted from something.

Right now, almost all of that something is natural gas, and part of it is coal, so fossil energy stakeholders have been riding high on the idea of the hydrogen economy. However, the cost of non-fossil hydrogen sources is dropping quickly, and fossil energy stakeholders  will have to think fast.

Naturally enough, natural gas stakeholders have an interest in promoting the hydrogen economy as a decarbonization thing to which they can contribute. Their idea is to add carbon capture to the process of steam reformation, which is the primary method for extracting hydrogen from natural gas. Some stakeholders are also experimenting with an emerging technology called autothermal reforming.

That still leaves a steaming pile of local and global impacts related to fugitive methane emissions throughout the natural gas extraction and distribution chain, as well as stress on water resources from drilling operations, including the disposal of drilling wastewater.

In a cold dose of reality for natural gas stakeholders, researchers are already studying how steam and autothermal reforming can be applied to extract hydrogen from biogas. So, have at it, you natural gas stakeholders. See what you can do to improve the technology, and then watch as somebody else applies it to more sustainable, non-fossil resources.

Anyways, much of the green hydrogen R&D activity taking place nowadays is aimed at driving down the cost of electrolysis, which refers to deploying an electrical current to pop hydrogen gas out of water, so it’s possible that New York can build its sparkling green hydrogen economy on water and electricity.

Natural gas stakeholders may be hoping that “electricity” means more room for gas power plants. Dream on, Klingon.

NYSERDA is hooking up with the Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory to “compile the foundational, base-line information and data that will enable New York to have robust discussions and dialogue around the role green hydrogen could play in New York’s decarbonization plans,” and that discussion will be aimed at aligning the hydrogen strategy with “existing mandates for 70 percent renewable electricity by 2030 and 100 percent zero-emission electricity by 2040.”

Whither Natural Gas In The Hydrogen Economy Of The Future?

That thing about “zero-emission electricity by 2040” leaves some wiggle room for carbon capture, but not much. Part of New York’s hydrogen announcement involves new funding for long duration energy storage technology, which could eliminate or at least sharply reduce the need for gas power plants altogether.

The idea is that the current state of battery-type energy storage only permits a few hours of peak use. To fill in for gas power plants, a storage facility needs to provide for at least a full day, and preferably more than that.

In any case, New York is not interested in anything on the market today.

“Project submissions should advance, develop, or field-test hydrogen, electric, chemical, mechanical, or thermal-electric storage technologies that will address cost, performance, and renewable integration challenges in New York State,” they specify, adding that “Submissions must only include innovative long duration energy storage technologies which are yet to be commercialized.”

Right back at you, New Jersey. Last week the state’s Board of Public Utilities greenlighted the proposed Atlantic Shores offshore wind farm, which includes a pilot green hydrogen facility in its winning bid, but it appears that New York has vaulted ahead.

Stay tuned for Round 2, whatever that may be.

Follow me on Twitter @TinaMCasey.

Image: Renewable hydrogen is encroaching on natural gas territory (via National Renewable Energy Laboratory).


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Tesla Model 3 prototype spotted ahead of rumored design refresh

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Tesla Model 3 prototype spotted ahead of rumored design refresh

A new Tesla Model 3 prototype with camouflage has been spotted in California ahead of a rumored refresh coming next year.

Over the last week, there have been rumors that Tesla is working on a Model 3 refresh that would come during the second half of 2023.

The project is reportedly codenamed ‘Highland’.

For a few years now, Tesla has been integrating its large casting technology into Model Y with single large casting parts replacing dozens of parts in the electric SUV.

This new technology has enabled Tesla to greatly improve manufacturing efficiency with Model Y compared to Model 3. CEO Elon Musk said that Tesla will bring the same technology to Model 3 eventually, but he couldn’t exactly say when.

The problem is that such an update to the Model 3 would temporarily slow down production and Tesla couldn’t afford that while it was still ramping up Model Y production.

However, Model Y production is now starting to exceed Model 3 production and it could be good timing for Tesla to update the Model 3 and use a design refresh to introduce the large from and rear casting.

Now a new Model 3 prototype has been spotted in Santa Cruz, California by Twitter user omg_Tesla/Rivian:

The Model 3 is equipped with manufacturer plates, which would indicate that it is owned by Tesla, and combined with the heavy camouflage in the front and back of the vehicle, it likely points to the automaker testing an updated version of the electric sedan.

However, not much can be discerned from the pictures thanks to the camouflage, which even covers large parts of the headlights.

Nonetheless, some commenters on Twitter did notice what could potentially be a camera embedded in the corner of the front right headlight:

It’s barely visible and therefore unconfirmed, but it would make sense to place a camera around that spot since Tesla’s current self-driving sensor suite has a blind spot around the bumper and it could also help with the creeping forward to see traffic before taking a turn in Full Self-Driving – something FSD Beta has issues with right now.

Tesla has always said that it would keep improving its Autopilot and Full Self-Driving hardware, but current owners who bought vehicles with the promise that self-driving will be enabled through software updates are concerned that Tesla might find that it would need a new sensor suite to achieve the promise.

What do you think about this Tesla Model 3 prototype? Is the camouflage hiding a Model 3 design refresh? A new Autopilot sensor suite? Let us know what you think in the comment section below.

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OPEC+ agrees to stick to its existing policy of reducing oil production ahead of Russia sanctions

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OPEC+ agrees to stick to its existing policy of reducing oil production ahead of Russia sanctions

Led by Saudi Arabia and Russia, OPEC+ agreed in early October to reduce production by 2 million barrels per day from November.

Vladimir Simicek | Afp | Getty Images

An influential alliance of oil producers on Sunday agreed to stay the course on output policy ahead of a pending ban from the European Union on Russian crude.

OPEC and non-OPEC producers, a group of 23 oil-producing nations known as OPEC+, decided to stick to its existing policy of reducing oil production by 2 million barrels per day, or about 2% of world demand, from November until the end of 2023.

Energy analysts had expected OPEC+ to consider fresh price-supporting production cuts ahead of a possible double blow to Russia’s oil revenues.

The European Union is poised to ban all imports of Russian seaborne crude from Monday, while the U.S. and other members of the G-7 will impose a price cap on the oil Russia sells to countries around the world.

The Kremlin has previously warned that any attempt to impose a price cap on Russian oil will cause more harm than good.

Oil prices have fallen to below $90 a barrel from more than $120 in early June ahead of potentially disruptive sanctions on Russian oil, weakening crude demand in China and mounting fears of a recession.

Led by Saudi Arabia and Russia, OPEC+ agreed in early October to reduce production by 2 million barrels per day from November. It came despite calls from the U.S. for the group to pump more to lower fuel prices and help the global economy.

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What’s the status of California’s upcoming $10M electric bike rebate program?

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What's the status of California's upcoming M electric bike rebate program?

California allocated $10 million for a rebate program to help make electric bikes more affordable. But hang on there; it’s not active quite yet.

The move is part of a years-long effort to help reduce the price of expensive electric bicycles for state residents. The ultimate goal is to make it easier for commuters to switch from car transportation to e-bike transportation.

It makes sense when you consider the long list of benefits. From cleaner air to reduced traffic and improved health/fitness, electric bikes solve many of the problems plaguing California (and the rest of the country).

But the path towards a statewide incentive program to reduce e-bike prices hasn’t been quick or easy.

specialized globe haul st e-bike

California has earmarked over $1 billion this year as incentives for electric cars and charging infrastructure, according to Streetsblog. That’s in addition to the billions already put into electric car incentives.

Back in 2019 electric bikes finally got the attention they deserved from lawmakers when California’s S.B. 400 was passed, which included a section that permitted electric bikes to be included in future clean air vehicle incentive programs.

That paved the way for the possibility of statewide e-bike rebate programs, but it didn’t actually create any.

Last year California got one step closer to that goal when it included a $10M allocation in the state budget for an e-bike rebate program. As Assemblymember Boerner Horvath said at the time:

“Making e-bikes more affordable is one of the most effective ways to get Californians out of their cars and reduce emissions. I’m thrilled that the full funding I requested for purchase incentives, education, and training is included in the budget we approved. This program represents a priority shift in the right direction and, once implemented, will help folks from all backgrounds choose a healthier, happier way to get around.”

That was another huge step in the right direction, but it hasn’t yet resulted in an active program.

That’s expected to begin in early 2023, with a number of key guidelines for California’s first statewide e-bike voucher program already laid out.

According to the California Bicycle Association, the program will create a $750 voucher for a standard electric bicycle and a $1,500 voucher for a cargo electric bicycle. There will be additional incentives for anyone whose income is under 225% of the federal poverty level (FPL) or who lives in disadvantaged communities.

But in order to qualify for the voucher, participants’ household income must be below 400% of the FPL, which amounts to $51,000 for a single person and $106,000 for a family of four at current figures.

The program will include Class 1 electric bikes (pedal assist up to 20 mph or 32 km/h) and Class 2 electric bikes (pedal assist and/or throttle up to 20 mph or 32 km/h), but will NOT include Class 3 e-bikes (pedal assist up to 28 mph).

Qualifying bikes must also either be purchased at a local bike shop in California, or online from a company that has “a business location in California”.

The move could see California align with other states that have created or already implemented electric bicycle incentives. Vermont became the first state in the US to offer a statewide e-bike rebate program. Oregon is also working on creating an e-bike incentive program that could soon become law, as New York attempts to do the same.

Many cities such as Denver, Colorado have also implemented their own local programs, though the funding is usually much smaller than statewide programs.

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