Ed Burke

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Sterling MA Launches Utility Scale Battery Project

Posted by Ed Burke on Nov 21, 2016 3:00:00 PM

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The Sterling Municipal Light Department in Sterling MA is building the first utility scale battery storage system project in Massachusetts. It's  not only the first in Mass, its also the largest in New England -a 2-megawatt, 3.9 megawatt-hour battery storage system to be exact. Its kind of a big deal!

The system is designed to boost grid resiliency - it will allow the town to be able to "isolate" from the grid and provide up to 12 days of backup power for the police and dispatch center.

Sterling has jumped on with the Governor and the state initiative to embrace energy storage as a comprehensive part of cleaner energy solutions. Sterling has been developing a well balanced energy portfolio, including aggressively installing PV solar in recent years and is currently 7th in the nation in installed PV per capita, so a large scale energy storage project like the one underway makes sense for the town. It should also serve as a fantastic "pilot program" of sorts for other communities looking to launch similar projects.

I wrote an article for Oil & Energy Magazine that goes into more detail about the project, the goals, and the role the state and US Departments of Energy would like to see the project play in moving the country forward on energy storage, especially as it relates to renewables. You can read that article here: "Building New England's Largest Energy Storage Project" 

(For some background on energy storage battery technology, and why its so important for utilities, you can also read: "Persuing the Holy Grails of Battery Tech" )

I look forward to following the project and updating about its success. Congratulations, Sterling MA, on being pioneers in the future of energy in Massachusetts!

  

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Topics: Mass DOER, battery, renewable energy

Control Costs By Embracing Technology

Posted by Ed Burke on Sep 21, 2016 3:00:00 PM

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Let's face it - innovation is often driven by either a desire to control costs, or a refusal to accept inefficiency. Often, it is both. Its hard to beat smart solutions that both control costs and allow for greater efficiency and productivity at the same time. In our unending quest to make things as efficient as possible, we've tried out and expanded tons of different systems for everything from financial data, to e-logs, to payroll, to website visits.

One of the biggest "bang for the buck" tools we've integrated into our daily business:

Tablets.

I can not say enough great things about our decision to move our drivers and dispatching to a tablet based system. Our tablet apps integrate mapping with GPS, so drivers can automatically track and then e-file their daily logs, and vehicle inspections. This saves mutiple hours per week, not even counting the time (and frustration) it saves in the office not having to sort, cross reference, and store stacks of paper.

The GPS tracking also enables us to easily file miles-per-state reports per IFTA regulations - instead of a driver writing out miles per state every day we simply run a report and file.

Integration allows dispatch to more efficiently assign loads, and automatically ensures that they have up to the minute information on the drivers hours of service so we can easily ensure compliance. 

Drivers also use their tablets to punch in and out, so payroll flows seamlessly from the app to HR. No more calling in hours, missed punches or snafus with vacation scheduling, its all handled within the apps. 

I wrote an article discussing tablets as well as a few other cost saving technologies we've employed that had additional time savings, insurance savings, etc (such as our phone apps). You can read the article here: "Controlling Costs and Staying Competitive" - you can read more about our cell phone app system here as well: "Want Safer Drivers? There's an App for That"

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Topics: Oil & Energy Magazine, tablets, Technology, Cell Phone Policy

MIT: The Ozone is Healing, Thanks to CFC Ban

Posted by Ed Burke on Aug 15, 2016 2:03:00 PM

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Scientists at MIT have published findings that the "first fingerprints of healing" are evident in the ozone layer over the Antarctic.  In the published paper they show that the hole in the ozone (first discovered in 1985) has shrunk over 4 millon square kilometers since its peak in 2000.

Credit is given to the ongoing decrease in atmospheric chlorine as a result of ever diminishing use of CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons). If you recall, the world essentially banded together 30 years ago and agreed to the Montreal Protocol, a global effort to ban production of CFCs and other ozone depleting chemicals. (No small feat by the way, at the time, CFCs were in essentially everything from air conditioning, to aerosol hairspray, to chemical solvents)

I wrote an article for the August issue of Oil & Energy Magazine discussing the paper and the history of the ozone hole and the effort to ban CFCs as a result. You can read that article here: "The Hole in the Ozone is Getting Smaller"

As interesting as the ozone changes are, it is worth noting that there may be a takeaway lesson here for alternative energy efforts in the future on other fronts, in terms of proving the effectiveness of global agreement on limiting or banning harmful chemicals or their by products and its potential positive impact on the environment. Time will tell.  

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Topics: CFCs, ozone, MIT, alternative energy

EPA's 2017 RFS Volume Proposal Draws Familiar Concerns

Posted by Ed Burke on Jul 20, 2016 8:20:00 AM

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This past May, the EPA released its 2017 RFS volume standards. The 2017 levels are a 3.8% increase over 2016 but are still well below the original levels for the year as proposed in 2007.

In both the stakeholder commentary period and the period immediately following the volumes' release, we saw the usual cast of characters come forward with their concerns about the mandated levels. That included biofuels proponents who see the EPAs levels as a "cave" over the blend wall, and industry members who are concerned about the market and practical feasibility of ever increasing levels and who carries the obligation to meet mandated levels. 

You can read more in depth about the diverse reactions the EPA ruling had in the recent article I wrote for Oil & Energy magazine here: "Proposed RFS Changes Draw Diverse Reactions" 

 

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Topics: EPA Mandate, RFS, Biofuels

Solar Power - New Developments Off Of the Rooftop

Posted by Ed Burke on Jun 10, 2016 3:30:00 PM

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Solar Power has seen a huge growth in installations - from residential neighborhood rooftops to large installations along highways throughout the country.

However, the new and exciting developments in solar are all off rooftop, with potential applications from wearable tech to on board setups in trucks across the nation, to floating panels in reservoirs. MIT is working on photovoltaic solar cells so light they can rest on soap bubbles without popping them. Amazing stuff!

To read more in depth about the new frontiers being explored you can read my most recent article in Oil & Energy Magazine here: "Solar Power: Looking Beyond the Rooftops"

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Topics: Solar Power, photovoltaic, MIT

Tesla's Model 3 Debut Stuns Industry

Posted by Ed Burke on May 12, 2016 2:30:00 PM

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Tesla's Model 3 launch saw unprecedented and unpredicted preorders come in around 400,000 - for a car that isnt even out for about 2 more years! 

The car boasts a $35,000 dollar price tag - compared to the high price of some previous Tesla models, the model 3 is an opportunity for lovers of the Tesla branded vehicles to get into one themselves. The car also boasts a 200+ mile electric only range, and some neat tech features including a heads up display and the standard Tesla car software "upgrades".

I wrote an aticle for Oil & Energy on the Tesla model 3 launch, it's features, as well as possible issues that could be on the horizon for the company in terms of hitting deadlines on the Model 3, especially in the face of demand that tripled even the most optimistic preorder projections. You can read that article here: Oil & Energy Magazine:"Impressive Launch for the Tesla Model 3"

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Topics: tesla, electric vehicles

Battery Tech Advances Could Change U.S. Energy Storage Outlook

Posted by Ed Burke on Apr 14, 2016 2:00:00 PM

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Batteries had a great year in 2015 - with costs going down and large scale installations occuring, primarily in the utility sector. The United States energy storage capacity grew by 221 megawatts in 2015, which is triple the capacity added in 2014.

Batteries serve to bridge the gap between renewables like wind and solar and the grid. Wind and solar are both intermittent in terms of power generation, and battery storage technology is a necessary to ensure power is available when its needed versus when it happens to be generated. 

I wrote an article for Oil & Energy magazine going into depth on new developments in battery technology and what the future holds in terms of the goals of cutting edge developments at MIT, Harvard, and the Department of Energy. You can read that article here: Oil & Energy Magazine: "Persuing the Holy Grail of Battery Tech"

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Topics: renewable energy, energy storage, Solar Energy

Renewables in 2015 & 2016

Posted by Ed Burke on Mar 11, 2016 1:30:00 PM

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2015 was a banner year for Renewables. The EPA finally finalized RFS volumes for 2014-2016 in November. In December, Congress passed the tax extenders package which included both the $1 per gallon biodiesel blender credit and cellulosic blending credit of $1.01 per gallon, retroactively.

We also saw the Paris Climate Change Summit in November (Here's a quick recap of where we were then in terms of Climate Change regulations). The Summit saw 190 countries agree to Climate Change resolutions and almost univerally agreeing that each country would lower its carbon emissions.

2015 saw increases in renewable fuels use essentially across the board, and 2016 projections are optimistic on growth. I wrote an article for Oil & Energy's March issue that goes into depth on current levels, projections, and how the renewables mix looks like it will shake out through 2016. You can read that article here: Oil & Energy: "Renewables are Changing the Energy Mix"

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Topics: renewable energy, Biodiesel, EPA

New England States & Climate Change Preparedness

Posted by Ed Burke on Feb 11, 2016 12:30:00 PM

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A comprehensive state by state analysis of 5 specific threats: wildfire, extreme heat, drought, inland flooding and coastal flooding by Climate Change Central and ICF International has ranked New England states in order of preparedness. Once again, Massachusetts comes in on top.

I wrote an article for this month’s edition of Oil & Energy Magazine that goes into how each New England state stacked up, why, and where there is an opportunity to improve preparedness. You can read that article here: “Oil & Energy Magazine: States Prepare for Climate Change”

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Topics: climate change, Oil & Energy Magazine

RFS Volumes Finally Finalized

Posted by Ed Burke on Jan 8, 2016 11:36:12 AM

Corn kernels in a container labeled, Biofuel

As of November, the EPA finally released its final renewable volume obligations for 2014, 2015, and 2016.

The volumes set are lower than those mandated by Congress in the initial Renewable Fuel Standard, after the EPA took into account a drop in fuel & gasoline demand and usage over the past several years (as compared to the demand and usage projected in 2007). The final volume for 2016 is 18.11 billion gallons, versus the Congressional volume of 22.25 billion gallons.

There were over 600 thousand comments on the proposal before it was finalized, and the feelings on the results are mixed, to put it mildly.

Ag farmers and biofuel industry players had argued the EPA had to stick to the original mandated volumes. Livestock farmers and food producers had argued for the mandate to be scrapped in its entirety, citing the impact it has had on pushing the cost of food and food production skywards. The oil industry fell somewhere in the middle, arguing the EPA ought to use its waiver to greatly reduce volumes to reflect lower fuel usage, the essential lack of cellulosic renewables, and concerns that high mandated volumes of ethanol would force the blend wall issue.

I wrote an in depth piece on the EPA's final ruling for Oil & Energy Magazine - you can read it in full here: "EPA Finalizes RFS Obligations"

 

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Topics: Ethanol, Biofuels, RFS, renewable energy

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