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California to install greenhouse gas-tracking gear

Picarro sells seven monitors to the California Air Resources Board, which will use data from the gear to find sources of greenhouse gases and verify estimates.

The state of California has purchased seven monitors to measure greenhouse gas concentrations in the air statewide, as part of an effort to get accurate data for reducing emissions.

Until now, the maker of the monitors, Picarro, has sold its gas analyzers to scientists and government agencies for research purposes. This sale is thought to be the first installation where in-field hardware devices will be used to verify estimates of greenhouse gas emissions.


"There's a big shift away from just scientific use for our technology to using it to meet regulatory requirements," said Picarro CEO Micheal Woelk on Tuesday.

Rather than take a one-time sample, the company's devices continually monitor the composition of air, which results in a precise measurement, Woelk said.

In California, which has set statewide targets for cutting heat-trapping gases, the analyzers will be placed to locate the sources of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, California Air Resource Board officials told The New York Times. The initial network of seven devices could grow; Woelk estimated that the U.S. would need 500 to 700 of the $50,000 devices for a countrywide monitoring network.

The data from the gas analyzers will also be used to verify emissions estimates drawn from energy consumption numbers, Woelk said. That data could be used by carbon accounting software packages for tracking and reporting emissions.

"The only truth is what's in the air," he said. "You need real-time data to know if your policies are working. If they aren't, then you need to make adjustments, just like when you're running a business."