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COVID-19 home tests for students

Good Morning, I’m Annica Colbert….it’s Monday January 3rd>>>>

back to school amidst another COVID surge…More on that next. But first... let’s do the headlines….######

County health officials reported just under 6,000 positive covid-19 tests last Thursday, that’s a new daily case record. And that number doesn’t include positives from any of the rapid tests San Diegans have been taking at home.

Many San Diegans are searching for ways to get tested, but popular county sites were closed on Friday and Saturday. Point Loma resident Tessy Cranford was able to get tested for free on Friday at the Santa Fe Transit station. She says her family isn’t going anywhere after possibly being exposed over Christmas.

“We don't want to spread it because we can be asymptomatic and we don’t know” (:05)

Local health care systems say they are getting swamped with people looking for tests too.

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Meanwhile, the number of covid-19 patients in San Diego hospitals has surged to almost 600, according to the latest state figures. 590 people in the county are hospitalized with covid-19 as of saturday, that’s up from 510 on friday, and 475 on thursday.

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California lawmakers are flush with money and unfinished business from last year as they return to the state capitol today. Governor Gavin Newsom says he anticipates another “historic” budget surplus months after he approved a record spending plan that topped a quarter-trillion dollars. Legislative analysts predict the state will have another 31 billion dollar surplus for the fiscal year starting july 1st. Newsom must present his proposed budget by january 10th.

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From KPBS, you’re listening to San Diego News Now.Stay with me for more of the local news you need.

School is back in session this morning for students in the San Diego Unified school district following a two week winter break. KPBS Education Reporter M.G. Perez reports on the district’s efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Students in San Diego Unified are back in class today with the hope that they have two negative test results for COVID-19. The district distributed more than 98-thousand home self swab test kits before the holidays with instructions to test last Friday and again, this morning. The tests are not mandatory but Interim Superintendent Dr. Lamont Jackson says they were highly recommended.

SOT: “We’re just going to continue to provide opportunities and access to the testing and also continue to encourage folks to get vaccinated.”

The district’s vaccination van is back in operation this morning at Millennial Tech Middle School. Offering anyone COVID vaccinations and booster shots until 5 p.m. MGP KPBS News

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A law aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions in landfills went into effect on the first day of 2022. KPBS Reporter Melissa Mae talked with a local food relief organization that stands to benefit.

MM: The SB 1383 law was passed in 2016, but takes effect on January 1, 2022. It’s a statewide effort to reduce emissions of short-lived climate pollutants in landfills by reducing disposal of organic waste.

MM: To cut waste that causes landfill methane emissions, all wholesalers, grocery stores and other food businesses must donate their surplus of still fresh food to hunger relief organizations like Feeding San Diego.

MM: Patty O’Connor is the chief supply chain officer for Feeding San Diego and says the one major adjustment they have to make is making sure they have enough resources!

PO (:08) “We are trying to staff up and get more trucks and get more volunteers and help save as much food as possible.”

MM: They’ve been rescuing food for almost 15 years and have almost 800 food pickups a week.

MM: The goal of SB 1383 is to reduce 75% of landfilled organic waste and increase edible food recovery by 20% by 2025. Melissa Mae KPBS News.

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Another new state law limits what kinds of plastic packaging can be labeled with the "chasing arrows" recycling symbol. Cap Radio's Steve Milne [MILL-nee] reports as part of our series on New Laws.

[The law is informally known as "Truth in Recycling."

"We think that nobody should be able to lie to the public and we're just trying to get truth in labeling for recycling." [:05]

Heidi Sanborn heads an environmental group that pushed for the new law - the National Stewardship Action Council. She says more than 80-percent of the single-use plastics Californian's put in recycle bins, wind up in landfills instead.

"When they're being lied to on the label, they buy the wrong thing and they do the wrong thing with it and then they get their prices increased because of the cost of the contamination. So it's a triple lose for the consumer." [:12]

Under the new law, products will only have the chasing arrow symbol if they're collected in at least 60-percent of the state's curbside programs. Manufacturers have until the summer of 2025 to get their products into compliance.

In Sacramento, I’m Steve Milne.]

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As hundreds of asylum seekers from Haiti continue to arrive at the U.S.-Mexico border aid groups are running out of resources to help.

From the Fronteras Desk in Tucson, KJZZ’s Alisa Reznick reports

Rodney Montreuil leads the Haitian American Center for Social Economic Development in Phoenix.Since Christmas Eve, he says he’s helped more than 100 Haitian asylum seekers book flights to connect with family in the U.S. after being released from Border Patrol and ICE detention in Yuma and across the border in California.
MONTREUIL: The shelters cannot take any more, so we don’t have any other options, but to ask for help.
AR: Montriel says he’s spent hundreds of dollars of his own money to help families stay in hotels while they await flights, but resources are getting scant.As more people are released, he says ensuring asylum seekers have what they need will require assistance from federal and local groups.

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Coming up.... Chula Vista and El Cajon will be the first two sites in the county to host batteries for renewable energy storage. And that’s just the beginning. We’ll have more on that next, just after the break.

A new energy storage project is rolling out across the county, with batteries scheduled to be installed this month at two sites. The San Diego energy storage project aims to bolster emissions-free energy for California’s electric grid. Once completed, there will be a total of 12 sites across the county, with enough storage to power 110-thousand homes for two hours. All of this is aimed at helping California reach its goal of making sure that about 60 percent of our electricity comes from renewable sources by the end of this decade.

San Diego Union-Tribune energy reporter Rob Nikolewski has been covering the story. He spoke with KPBS midday Edition host Jade Hindmon…

Could you tell us about the 12 new sites and how they'll work?

Speaker 2: (00:35)

Well, the batteries that are gonna be installed will store up energy and then release it into Cal California's power grid. Two of the sites will use zinc battery storage technology. The other 10 sites will use what's called lithium iron phosphate batteries. Now your listeners are probably familiar with lithium ion batteries. Now lithium iron phosphate is a little bit different. Uh, lithium iron phosphate batteries are considered less flamable. And so they're considered at least in this project to be, uh, a better choice. How

Speaker 1: (01:10)

Powerful will these sites be?

Speaker 2: (01:12)

Well, the entire portfolio is gonna count for 165 megawats and 336 megawat hours of battery storage, electricity. And as you mention that roughly translates into enough to power 110,000 homes for two hours.

Speaker 1: (01:28)

And what's the main goal of this project.

Speaker 2: (01:31)

The main goal of this project is the larger goal that California has, which is try to bring in more sources of power that do not emit greenhouse gas emissions. And, um, that that's because under the state's renewable portfolio standard, about 60% of California's electricity must come from renewable sources by 2030, and by 2045, if not earlier, a hundred percent of all the energy sources must come from carbon free sources. So that's a big driver behind this project and other ones.

Speaker 1: (02:03)

So if this project is successful, how does that change the trajectory of our climate crisis?

Speaker 2: (02:09)

Well, the thought is that if you're able to use battery storage, that that can help replace some of the fossil fuel sources that are out there. And the overall trick to this whole thing is that here in California, we have a lot of solar production that we get during the day. In fact, we get so much solar production that it can't be used, that sometimes it has to be curtailed. And so what they're trying to do is be able to take that excess solar or any other excess power that we have during the day, then store that up and use batteries to that. Then when solar production declines rapidly, once the sun goes down, you might be able to deploy. You will be able to deploy, um, energy from batteries and other sources like that, that can store up energy. So this whole idea of energy storage is very critical for California to try to meet these climate goals.

Speaker 1: (03:03)

And we know the first two sites are breaking ground within the next month in Chula Vista and El Cajon. Where will the other 10 sites be located in the county?

Speaker 2: (03:12)

They'll be scattered all across the county. There's one, a fairly decent size in LA Mesa. Another one, fairly decent size in spring valley. The, uh, second largest project is 30 megawats, uh, and that's out in Rancho Pena Quintos and then the biggest will be built out in Ramona and that'll be 39 megawatts. Hmm. So

Speaker 1: (03:33)

When are all the sites expected to be up and running?

Speaker 2: (03:36)

Well, the El Caho Chula Vista site that you mentioned at the, uh, top of this, uh, interview that are just broken ground, they're expected to begin commercial operations. As soon as early April of the entire portfolio, they expect to have all 12 sites up and running by the end of 2023.

Speaker 1: (03:53)

And could you tell us about who will be designing and operating these systems?

Speaker 2: (03:58)

It's this company that it's based in San Diego called enter smart. Uh, they're a renewable energy company. Uh, they're fairly new. I wrote a story about them about a year ago, about another project that they're doing in the San Diego area. And it's not as big, but, uh, they're new, but they're making, um, making some progress here.

Speaker 1: (04:18)

All right. How much is the project to cost and how will it be funded?

Speaker 2: (04:23)

It's estimated to cost up to a hundred million and enter smart, was able to get some funding, some financing from two pretty big, uh, entities. One is Siemens financial. The other is in north American development bank. They're going to split the call us about 50 50 between Siemens and the north American development bank. The north American development bank is kind of interesting. It's a binational project that's been established by the us and Mexico government that's been established in order to, uh, build and enhance infrastructure projects along the border of those two countries.

Speaker 1: (05:01)

Do you foresee more projects like this rolling out across the county or even the state in the near future?

Speaker 2: (05:08)

Yeah, I think so. In fact, definitely it's probably a better way to put it because of those California renewable mandates that we talked about earlier. There's a lot of requirements and there's a lot of push to bring more renewable projects into the form, put 'em into the grid. And on top of that, the public utilities commission has ordered utilities and power companies to come up with more sources of power, especially clean energy projects in the next few years, the grid really needs these new projects, especially because us in the next couple of years, the last remaining nuclear power plant in California, the Yalo canyon power plant up in, uh, central California. That's going to be going away. It's going to be a discontinued and that's roughly about 2000 megawats that need to be replaced. So California is looking for more in the next couple year, more sources of power, especially clean power.

Speaker 1: (06:06)

All right. So we know one of the big goals of this project is to be able to store and use this emissions free energy more efficiently. Does this have the prospect of low lowering energy bills at all?

Speaker 2: (06:19)

At this point? I, I doubt it because the general thought is that this particular project that we're talking about that inner Smartt is doing, I ask, uh, the managing partner of that company, what the estimated cost would be. And it's about $300 per megawat hour, which is more expensive than conventional sources. But the overall thought that, uh, backers of energy storage say is that they point to the fact that energy storage battery storage prices have dramatically gone down. Uh, few years ago, it was in the tens of thousands of dollars. Now it's depending, uh, on the various estimate that have been said, for example, the national renewable energy, uh, laboratory in Colorado, they estimate that by the year 2030, that battery storage prices could be about $148 megawat hour. So the goal is to get to battery storage prices at about a hundred dollars in megawat. So we're getting closer, but I don't think that this particular project will translate into, uh, lower energy bills for customers in San Diego right now

That was San Diego Union-Tribune energy reporter Rob Nikolewski, speaking with KPBS Midday Edition host Jade Hindmon.

That’s it for the podcast today. Be sure to catch KPBS Midday Edition At Noon on KPBS radio, or check out the Midday podcast. You can also watch KPBS Evening Edition at 5 O’clock on KPBS Television, and as always you can find more San Diego news online at KPBS dot org. I’m Annica Colbert. Thanks for listening and have a great day.

New Year’s Eve was a COVID-19 test date for San Diego Unified students. Each student was sent home before the holidays with two COVID-19 self-swab tests, to be used Friday and then again Monday morning to confirm negative results before returning to in-person classes. Meanwhile, a new law goes into effect as of January 1 that requires all wholesalers, grocery stores and food businesses to donate their leftover fresh food to hunger relief organizations. The goal is to reduce landfill emissions and waste. Plus, a new energy storage project is on its way to San Diego.