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Montana climate project to install remote weather stations

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MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — University of Montana researchers recently received a $21 million government contract, bringing more support and longevity to what has been a grassroots effort to build a better climate monitoring network across the state.

The funding from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will pay to expand and enhance a collaborative project spearheaded by UM’s Montana Climate Office in 2016 that aims to fill in gaps in weather and soil moisture data throughout the state.

“This project is very unique,” said Kelsey Jencso, a lead researcher and associate professor of watershed hydrology at UM. “This is a very applied project. It has a particular goal, which is to better monitor soil moisture, snowpack, weather hazards and climate conditions.”

Through partnerships with government agencies, including the Montana Department of Agriculture and Bureau of Land Management, Montana State University, watershed groups, and private farmers and ranchers, the Montana Climate Office, part of the W.A. Franke College of Forestry and Conservation, has installed 80 weather stations in the last four years across Montana.

Called Montana Mesonet, the project allows researchers and state agencies to better characterize drought conditions across Montana for planning around agriculture, water supplies and evolving fire conditions, Jencso said in a phone interview. With the additional money from the contract, they’ll be able to add stations in central and eastern portions of the state, where historically, data has been under measured.

“It’s not that snow doesn’t occur out in central and eastern Montana, it’s just that we don’t have stations to record that and so these data points become really important for daily models by the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and Weather Service flood forecast center,” Jencso told the Missoulian.


The $21 million Army Corps contract will cover new equipment and sensors and pay for

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Solar-Powered EV Chargers Go Where Grid-Tied Stations Can’t

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While you can build a gas station pretty much anywhere zoning codes allow, electric vehicle fast-charging stations need to be placed in close proximity to dedicated service transformers to support their heavy draw from the grid. Access to that type of infrastructure isn’t always available in rural areas, which means that large swaths of California have few public charging stations, if there are any at all. Electrify America is filling in the service gaps with off-grid electric vehicle charging stations powered only by the sun.

The national EV charging network announced today it added eight solar-powered charging stations in under-served areas in California. EV ARC stations are freestanding Level 2 chargers that don’t need to be tied to the power grid to work. Rather, they’re equipped with a 4.28-kilowatt (kW) sun-tracking solar array and 32kWh of on-board battery storage. They generate 100% of its stored electricity from its solar panels and can operate even at night or during power outages to charge two vehicles simultaneously at a speed of 3.3 kw.

“In rural areas of California there isn’t always the infrastructure available for charging stations,” explains Nina Huesgen, senior manager at Electrify America. “Providing this access to charging can increase the confidence of local EV drivers in need of public charging options.”

Although 8% of new vehicle sales in California were EVs in 2019, rural areas have only half a percent of penetration, according to Envision Solar, which manufactures the EV ARC stations.

Electrify America is positioning eight solar powered stations in easily-accessible public locations in Fresno County with plans to install 30 in rural and economically disadvantaged areas of California by the end of 2020. These stations are free and open to the public, and are meant for “opportunity