New Federal gas fracking rules are coming

The Obama administration has been circulating new environmental-safety rules for hydraulic fracturing on federal land, setting a new standard that natural-gas wells on all lands eventually could follow.  Expect the Interior Department to release them within a few days. These rules will help create more public confidence in this new technology and help the industry move forward.

The new rules address concerns that the method of extracting natural gas known as “fracking” can contaminate groundwater. Among other things, they create new guidelines for constructing wells and treating waste water, according to a draft of the proposed rules reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

Any chemicals used in the fracking process would have to be disclosed, but not until after they have already been used in the drilling.

The fracking rules apply to natural-gas drilling on federal and tribal lands, where about one-fourth of fracked wells are drilled. The new rules could serve as a template for state regulation in the future.

Time for Solar Plug and Play?

On April 24, 2012, the Energy Department Announced Funding to Develop “Plug-and-Play” Solar Energy Systems for Homeowners.¬†This effort is part of the Department’s broader strategy to spur solar power deployment by reducing “soft” costs, such as installation, permitting, and interconnection.

As solar module costs have reduced by half in the last 18 months and continue to drop, it is inevitable that attention turns to the installation side of the equation. But simply reengineering the installation will not be enough to succeed. Agenera’s MegaTrend report will focus on this plug and play technology trend in its June issue. When will it happen? What features are needed? How will it change the home solar market? What new markets will emerge?