Energy and Environment | KUNR

Energy and Environment

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

April showers could produce more fuel for wildfires this summer.

Spring is in full bloom in Northern Nevada, and that has some meteorologists concerned, like Gina McGuire of the Great Basin Coordination Center.

"The main caveat this year is going to be the spring growth with the wet conditions we've seen, a lot of precipitation in the winter and spring, and most likely a wet April and cool April ahead for most of Nevada and most of the great Basin."

Noah Glick

Northern Nevada had an average year for its snowpack, and sometimes being average isn't a bad thing.

Researchers measured 42.1 inches of liquid water on Mt. Rose Friday, which is above median for the end of the season.

"You know, the take home message is that this was a great year compared to the last four," said Jeff Anderson, a hydrologist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service. "Fortunately, we didn't dig the hole any deeper for the drought."

Anderson added that last week's surprise spring snowstorm offered a helpful boost, especially out east.

Daniel Sancho / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

The Nevada Department of Agriculture is offering a grant to help stimulate specialty crops in the state. Reno Public Radio’s Noah Glick has that story.

Specialty crops are plants used for human consumption that are not animal- or grain-based: things like fruits, nuts and herbs. The Nevada Department of Agriculture is offering $250,000 to promote this industry.

Ashley Jeppson is with the department, and she says the purpose of the grant is to enhance human food production.

Noah Glick

The Stillwater Hybrid Plant in Fallon, owned and operated by Enel Green Power, officially unveiled its solar thermal energy capability Tuesday, making it the first power plant in the world to combine that type of energy with geothermal and solar panels. Reno Public Radio’s Noah Glick was there.

Dignitaries including Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi spoke at the ribbon cutting.

Ken Lund / CC BY-SA 2.0

Governor Brian Sandoval has cautiously agreed to put the Anaconda Copper Mine on the National Priority List, opening up federal funding for clean up efforts. Reno Public Radio's Noah Glick reports.

The cost to clean up the site is estimated at $31 million. By getting it on the EPA’s National Priority List, Governor Sandoval hopes that federal dollars can provide a solution.

Desert Research Insitute

The Desert Research Institute recently unveiled its new Wildland Fire Science Center, a concept that brings together scientists from various disciplines to combat wildfires. As wildfire season approaches, Reno Public Radio's Noah Glick chatted with the center's new director, Hans Moosmüller.

NG: This is not a physical, research center. So what is this?

Steve Shadley

Scientists say climate change and increasing demands on the world's rivers are harming enormous freshwater fish that can weigh more than 200 pounds. As Reno Public Radio’s Steve Shadley reports, one museum is helping the public understand the challenges ahead for so-called Monster Fish.

The Discovery Museum in downtown Reno is full of children excited to see replicas of giant fish from India and other parts of Asia. Our tour guide is Zeb Hogan. He's a University of Nevada, Reno biologist and host of Monster Fish, a TV series produced by National Geographic.

Julia Ritchey

Tesla opened its doors today to local media to get a glimpse of its progress at the $5 billion Gigafactory under construction in Storey County. Reno Public Radio's Julia Ritchey takes us inside.

The echo-filled lobby of Tesla's battery factory is about one of three places journalists were allowed to record today during a two-hour tour at their massive compound inside the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center.

A spokesman for the company, who asked not to be named, gave several updates on their construction progress and production capacity.

UNR

  Western Shoshone ranchers and sisters, Carrie and Mary Dann, fought for decades with the federal government for the right to graze their cattle on ancestral lands. Although they ultimately lost, a new collection preserves the records of their long struggle.

Mary Dann passed away in 2005 and her surviving sister, Carrie, still lives near Battle Mountain on land her ancestors settled centuries ago.

Julia Ritchey

A month after researchers conducted a cloud-seeding test using unmanned aircraft, a Reno-based drone company is building the next generation. As Reno Public Radio's Julia Ritchey reports, the project hopes to bring cloud seeding into the 21st century.

Inside the shop at Drone America, design engineer Kyle Pruett is showing off their plans for a new unmanned, fixed-wing aircraft called the Savant.

Adam Mayberry, City of Sparks

The cities of Sparks and Reno are touting energy and cost savings after unveiling a new $25 million system that turns sewage into electricity. Reno Public Radio's Julia Ritchey reports.

"As you can tell, it's a big engine and it's loud,” says Michael Drinkwater, plant manager at the Truckee Meadows Water Reclamation Facility. “It's a GE Jenbacher, 20-cylinder engine, so we're burning right now approximately 250 cubic feet per minute of methane gas."

Washoe County Mulls Hoop House Rules

Mar 9, 2016
Warren IC / CC BY-SA 2.0

The Washoe County Board of Commissioners is mulling how gardening hoop houses should be regulated, if at all. Our contributor Bob Conrad of ThisisReno has the story.

Noah Glick

Clean energy activists gathered in downtown Reno this morning to protest the auctioning of public land leases for fossil fuel extraction. Reno Public Radio's Noah Glick was there and has more.

Valerie Love is a clean energy campaigner with the Center for Biological Diversity. Standing underneath the Reno arch, she had a message for Washington.

Julia Ritchey

A broad coalition of community stakeholders is coming together to promote an ambitious plan for the Truckee River.

The public-private partnership is called the One Truckee River Initiative and it brings together more than 130 representatives from the county, city, local businesses and environmental groups.

Their goal is to draft a comprehensive master plan for the Truckee River tackling everything from water quality to public safety to stewardship.

Lynda Nelson is with the Nevada Land Trust, one of the organizations coordinating the effort.

Noah Glick

Local researchers went out yesterday to measure the snowpack levels on Mount Rose. Reno Public Radio’s Noah Glick tagged along and learned that February fell short.

Jeff Anderson is walking down a ski run in the Mount Rose Ski Resort. He’s a hydrologist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service and he’s leading a group of scientists and members of the media to the Mount Rose snow telemetry, or SNOTEL, site where he’s taking manual measurements of the snowpack to make sure the data are consistent with electronic readings.

Nick Ares / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

The Truckee River Flood Management Authority recently received $1.75 million dollars to create a flood plan for the region. Reno Public Radio’s Noah Glick sat down with their executive director, Jay Aldean, to discuss what that means.

One of his biggest tasks for Aldean and his agency is planning and building infrastructure that will protect the region from major storms and flooding.

Julia Ritchey

Sen. Harry Reid says he supports two proposed ballot measures to boost the rooftop solar market and break up the power monopoly held by NV Energy. 

"Solar is good all over the country, but this is where it's pronounced," he said during a Reno stop on Wednesday to promote Saturday's Democratic caucus. 

Reid says he's even relayed his support for the two ballot initiatives to NV Energy President Paul Caudill. 

"They haven't been written or approved —and I'm sure everybody will file a lawsuit against them — but conceptually they're both great," he says. 

Thomas Kohler / Flickr / CC 2.0

Seventeen governors from across the nation have agreed to work together to advance clean, renewable energy initiatives. Reno Public Radio’s Noah Glick has more.

Under this agreement, states will work together to diversify energy sources, expand clean energy options and modernize infrastructure. Governors have yet to release specific policy details, but their advisors are meeting soon to begin developing plans.

New Battery Recycling Plant Emits Cloud Of Confusion

Feb 12, 2016
Amy Westervelt

A California tech company hopes to demonstrate eco-friendly lead battery recycling at its new plant in the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center. But there's been plenty of confusion surrounding the new plant. Reno Public Radio's Amy Westervelt sorts it out.

Aqua Metals is tight-lipped about the specifics of its technology, but in broad terms it recycles batteries using a water-based solvent. Chief commercial officer Steven Cotton says the company's new recycling facility, currently being built in Storey County, will be "practically emission free."

ELLIOTT BROWN, HTTPS://CREATIVECOMMONS.ORG/LICENSES/BY/2.0/

  The Nevada Public Utilities Commission will grandfather rooftop solar customers from higher rates after public outcry. Reno Public Radio’s Julia Ritchey reports.

Commissioners voted to phase in higher electricity costs over the course of 12 years, still less time than what solar advocates had wanted.

Those rate hikes were approved back in December, touching off a firestorm among net-metering customers who say the state has reneged on its promise to encourage renewable energy.

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