This Week in Cleantech is a new, weekly podcast covering the most impactful stories in cleantech and climate in 15 minutes or less. Produced by Renewable Energy World and Tigercomm, This Week in Cleantech will air every Friday in the Factor This! podcast feed wherever you get your podcasts.

This week’s episode features Washington Post climate reporter Maxine Joselow, who reported on a new ruling by the EPA to curb power plant emissions.

This week’s “Cleantecher of the Week” is Justina Whipkey, the mill supervisor at a JM Steel plant outside Pittsburgh that just tripled capacity to supply trackers to solar projects throughout the region.

1. In America’s Biggest Oil Field, the Ground Is Swelling and Buckling — Wall Street Journal

An analysis by The Journal found that land under the Permian basin in Texas and New Mexico has sunk as much as 11 inches since 2015 as a result of drilling. In other areas where wastewater from drilling is pumped into underground wells, the land has risen by as much as 5 inches.

For context, nearly 6 million barrels of oil are produced per day in the Permian – that’s more than triple the amount from a decade ago. That extraction requires massive amounts of water that becomes unusable, so it’s pumped back underground. Last year, companies injected 3.4 billion barrels of wastewater into disposal wells in the Permian. The increased pressure from injecting all that wastewater is not only causing the ground to rise, it’s making it harder to drill, and when that water is pumped deep underground, it can cause earthquakes, which have increased more than tenfold in the area since 2017.

2. Musk Plans More Layoffs as Two Senior Tesla Executives Depart — The Information

On Monday, The Information reported that, confusingly, Tesla layoffs include nearly the entire 500-member charging team. This comes after Tesla’s net income was down 55% in the first quarter of this year compared to the same period in 2023. In April, the company announced plans to lay off more than 10% of their workers.

It’s a bit of a headscratcher: Tesla’s work to develop charger technology and build a nationwide network has been foundational to the growth of EVs in the US. The company had seemingly “won the charging wars” when the industry coalesced around their NACS charger in an effort to increase options for EV drivers when they’re on the road.

One of the biggest barriers to EV adoption is range anxiety, so a slowdown in the growth of this network is likely bad for EV adoption across the board.

3. Sodium Batteries From Michigan Challenge Lithium’s Grip on Energy Transition — Bloomberg

Natron Energy, a California-based energy storage company opened its first full-scale sodium-ion battery plant in Holland, Michigan on Monday.

Their batteries are similar to the lithium-ion batteries used in most EVs, phones, and computers. But there are some key differences: sodium-ion batteries discharge faster and don’t need lithium or cobalt, which can be expensive and environmentally damaging to source. And, according to Natron, there’s no fire risk.

The downside is that they have less energy density, which is critical in order for electric vehicles to have a long range, but less important for their target application: backup power to support large electricity users like data centers.

Watch the full episode on YouTube

4. Biden completes permitting rule — Axios

The Biden administration on Tuesday finalized a rule to reform environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

The new rules would expand what qualifies for a  “categorical exclusion,” which is essentially a fast track for certain types of low-impact projects in specific areas. 

They would add deadlines and page limits to environmental reviews and increase emphasis on environmental justice by directing agencies to consider local impacts and engage local communities.

5. New rules will slash air, water and climate pollution from U.S. power plants — Washington Post

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced final rules to crack down on emissions from coal-fired and new natural gas-fired power plants.

The highly-anticipated announcement outlined a suite of measures aimed at reducing air, water, and land pollution from the power sector. As the sector makes long-term investments in the transition to clean energy, EPA said the rules are designed to work with power companies’ planning processes. Regulators say they project the rules will result in the reduction of 1.38 billion metric tons of carbon pollution overall through 2047.

Notably, EPA’s final rule heavily relies on carbon capture and sequestration/storage (CCS) as the best system of emission reduction (BSER) for the longest-running existing coal-fired units and most heavily utilized new gas turbines. Unlike the original proposal from nearly a year ago, decarbonizing these plants through clean hydrogen co-firing is not a factor in the new rule.

As we’ve reported, rules for existing natural gas-fired plants aren’t expected to come out until after the November election.


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Join us every Friday for new episodes of This Week in Cleantech in the Factor This! podcast feed, and tune into new episodes of Factor This! every Monday.

This Week in Cleantech is hosted by Renewable Energy World senior content director John Engel and Tigercomm president Mike Casey. The show is produced by Brian Mendes with research support from Alex Petersen and Clare Quirin.

This post appeared first on Power Engineering.