Tesla Nevada Gigafactory is working to cut back smoke air pollution from mosquito fires

Water tanker crews monitor a backfire during the Mosquito Fire in Foresthill, an unincorporated area of ​​Placer County, California, on September 13, 2022.

Josh Edelson | AFP | Getty Images

As a massive wildfire devastated tens of thousands of acres in California last week, smoke and ash poured into nearby towns, including Sparks – home of Tesla’s Nevada Gigafactory.

Tesla is taking steps to protect employees as much as possible from the smoke from the wildfire — known as mosquito fire — but the company has stopped furloughing workers.

According to an internal memo shared with CNBC, Tesla informed employees at the facility that the building’s heating, ventilation, and cooling (HVAC) system was set to a “recirculation mode to limit the amount of outside air drawn into the factory.” limit”.

The general air quality around the Tesla plant was classified as “unhealthy” to “very unhealthy” on Thursday and Friday with around 57 micrograms of particulate matter per cubic meter of air according to the US Air Quality Index.

When air quality is this bad, people of all ages are advised to severely limit outdoor activities and wear a mask outside to filter out smoke and other pollutants. They are also advised to keep windows closed to keep pollution out of their homes and offices.

Nevada Gigafactory HVAC filters have been upgraded to a MERV 13 level or higher over the past year to capture wildfire particulates. Those filters have been swapped out for new ones more frequently this year, Tesla told workers, and that should continue amid the smoky conditions.

Forest fires and air pollution also hit the region last year. For example, California’s Caldor Fire in 2021 burned more than 220,000 acres, destroying homes and land and resulting in unsafe air quality in surrounding areas, including Nevada.

According to the California Air Resources Board (CARB), “Climate change, driven primarily by the burning of fossil fuels, is increasing the frequency and severity of wildfires not only in California but around the world.”

Workers stationed outside or going outside frequently have been told to pick up N95 masks at an office in the Gigafactory and were also briefed on air quality this week.

According to the CalFire website, the mosquito fire was 20% contained late Friday, with cooler weather forecast for the weekend, which should help firefighters in their efforts to put out the blazes.

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