Saturday, December 27, 2008

Colorado Seeks Protections Amid Energy Boom

This article really demonstrates the recklessness which the Colorado oil and gas industry and Republican Colorado state lawmakers exhibit towards human, animal, and environmental life. I wouldn't refer to myself as a strict environmentalist. I think there needs to be some balance between commerce and the environment. And yes, "jobs" in the oil and gas industry in Colorado are important as one of the arguments from the article goes. But a nurse's vital organs almost failed because she inhaled from a patient's boots some secret sauce used during the natural gas extraction process and natural gas proponents still think that we should proceed with business as usual? Am I so naive as to think that someday these people will come to their senses and stop this myopic gratification for some long-term sustainability?

I have another bit of wishful thinking. I would like it if there were mandatory field trips for all of these blind supporters of the oil and gas industry to these natural gas drilling sites so they could see just how much damage this does to the air, land, and water around the area. I bet that these field trips would open a few eyes and show exactly how we get the non-renewable fuel that powers our furnaces and hot water heaters. Only then may we see a change in behavior and a reduction in myopic and political posturing.

Web Portal Helps Facilitate Minnesota Renewable Energy Roundtable

This is a good idea. The state of Minnesota is using technology to bring renewable energy enthusiasts, leaders, and participants together to help further the state's RE agenda. They call it the Renewable Energy Roundtable. From the article:

"There will be information about strategies that are being developed on issues like green-power jobs, curriculum development, research and public policy that will affect people who don't directly participate in the Roundtable," says AURI's Valerie Gravseth, Roundtable coordinator. "Our hope is that it becomes a credible source of information and a go-to place to learn about what's going on in renewable energy."

You can access the web portal via this link: MN's Renewable Energy Roundtable Portal

I hope Colorado develops something like this to bring all of the RE leaders in the state together. Governor Ritter are you reading?

Friday, December 26, 2008

There Is No Such Thing As Clean Coal, Part 2

Remember the first article on the the coal slurry spill in Tennessee? The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) estimated the spill at 2.6 million cubic yards. Well they've just about doubled it to 5.4 million cubic yards. From the article:

"Hundreds of fish were floating dead downstream from the plant Tuesday, and state and federal agencies have yet to complete water quality testing."

And then a TVA knucklehead says this:

"TVA spokesman Gil Francis has said the fish may have died from the freezing cold that contributed to the breach, not pollutants."

Are you kidding me?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Efficient Holiday Lighting Gains More Converts

This just great. Even though these LED holiday lights are relatively expensive people are still buying them. You gotta spend money to make money. And I salivate at the prospect of inexpensive LED lights for every room in the house. Patience, patience.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

There Is No Such Thing As Clean Coal

This environmental disaster in Tennessee is sad:

"Millions of yards of ashy sludge broke through a dike at TVA's Kingston coal-fired plant Monday, covering hundreds of acres, knocking one home off its foundation and putting environmentalists on edge about toxic chemicals that may be seeping into the ground and flowing downriver."

and this:

"About 2.6 million cubic yards of slurry — enough to fill 798 Olympic-size swimming pools — rolled out of the pond Monday, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Cleanup will take at least several weeks, or, in a worst-case scenario, years."

and this:

"Coal ash can carry toxic substances that include mercury, arsenic and lead, according to a federal study. The amount of poisons in TVA's ashy wastes that could irritate skin, trigger allergies and even cause cancer or neurological problems could not be determined Monday, officials said."

"Could not be determined." Yeah right.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Energy-Generating Floors to Power Tokyo Subways

Chalk another one up for the ingenious department. By walking over the floor, human kinetic energy (in the form of walking crowds) can generate electricity to power the subway's ticketing systems. The article says that about 25 square meters can create about 1400kw per day. Wow. Just think of other places where we can generate electricity using "piezoelectric" flooring.

Coffee Grounds as Biodiesel?

Seriously this is great. Speaking for myself, I have a pot of coffee 6-7 days a week. Most of the grounds go into the trash. It would be nice if we could figure out a way to save those used grounds for a biofuel producer. What other waste products can be converted to biofuel?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Would Burying CO2 Help in Climate Crisis?

An article in the USA Today asks the question. I remain skeptical that you can simply bury CO2 underneath the surface and that it will stay there forever and not return the atmosphere by seeping out or being expelled by some seismic activity. I'm certainly no scientist. To me it just seems like a waste of money when we can put that money into technology that doesn't create CO2. But what if there is a major climate crisis and we have to reduce the CO2 in the atmosphere?

Homeowners Sell Energy to Power Company

Aaahhh those crazy Canucks. They are doing exactly what needs to happen here in the U.S.- allow individuals to sell their excess power back to the utility company at a decent rate. Some info from the article:

"Modelled after programs in Germany and Japan, the Renewable Energy Standard Offer Program (RESOP) pays guaranteed, preferential rates over a 20-year term for wind, solar, hydro or biomass developments that have capacities of less than 10 megawatts and connect to a local distribution grid."

This will help the utilities meet their renewable energy quotas (being passed by state legislatures all across the country) in addition to reinforcing the localization of energy production. Let's hope that the we can be as progressive in our energy production methods.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Xcel Seeks Hike in Renewable Energy Fee

As our utility rates increase over the coming years, the ROI for generating our own power via PV, wind, or solar thermal, for example, becomes more enticing and happens quicker. What would you rather do, keep paying increasing rates to a utility for a service or at worst have to pay no utility bill or at best have the utility cut you a check? Think about how magnificent it would be if each of our communities would generate power on our roof tops or in our yards for our selves and each other. Think about a world without utilities generating power and just worrying about power transmission. Change is good.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A Solar Boost for the Sunshine State

Looks like Florida is going to get their first concentrated solar plant (CSP) soon. And this plant will use natural gas to provide base load power when the sun isn't shining. If you need a CSP primer check this blog post out. Congrats to Florida for getting their very own CSP plant.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Governor Ritter: Denver in Running for Nonstop Tokyo Flight

Now it's a deceiving headline but Governor Ritter's Asian business tour also addressed renewable energy and the prospect of the Japanese and Chinese bringing renewable energy operations here to the state. Hopefully those business leaders recognize that Colorado is going to be the renewable energy capital of the world. "You're either on the bus or off the bus."

Western Governors: 'Obama, Act Quickly on Energy'

Kudos to these Western governors for speaking their minds about reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Hopefully, President Obama is listening.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

NREL, Petrobras Partner to Research Biofuels

Petrobras is the biggest Brazilian biofuel producer. Brazil is a global leader in biofuel production (albeit ethanol created from food crops). NREL is a research leader. This partnership will allow for the sharing of research on second generation biofuels (extending the amount of biofuel that can be produced sustainably by using biomass comprised of the residual non-food parts of current crops, such as stems, leaves, and husks.). Let's hope their collective minds will come up with a way to utilize the unused portions of our crops. The Italians made grappa out of stems, leaves, and skins, so why not biofuel!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Why Not Geothermal Energy as Base Load Power?

This Colorado Energy News article ponders the question of using geothermal energy as base load power. Base load is the power necessary to provide electricity 24 hours per day. As much as we would like them to, the sun doesn't shine 24 hours per day and the wind doesn't blow consistently. So we need a reliable power source (currently burning coal) that will provide a constant flow of electricity. According to the article, the United States has an abundance of geothermal resources underneath. So why not geothermal? Read the article and find out!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Better Wind Turbines

New invention by ExRo Technologies which works well with the sporadic nature of wind and allows the generator to run more efficiently. Lets hope this gives a big boost to the wind turbine industry.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Nuke Site Converted Into Green Data Center

This is a great idea. Converting old nukes sites to data centers and generating the electricity that data center with renewable sources. This just confirms to me that there is plenty of opportunity out there to make good from bad. We just need to start thinking a little bit smarter.

Plasma Plants Will Vaporize Trash While Generating Energy

Cool. Reduce garbage in the landfills and generate 60 megawatts of electricity? Sold.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Obama Likely to Boost Alternative Energy

I know it hasn't been a week since Barack Obama was elected as the 44th President of the United States, but I can already feel a buzz throught the renewable energy community. I hope that we aren't let down this time. I trust that President Obama understands how promising renewable energy is for the future of the United States and the world.

Aspen’s Renewable Energy Program Gains Steam

The city of Aspen, Colorado is really pushing electricity generation from renewable energy to the limits, with such technologies as hydroelectric, solar and wind. Beyond the typical renewables they are also using the not so common geothermal and hydrogen fuel cells to provide power or heating and cooling. Perhaps it's time for a field trip to beautiful Aspen to check out their forward thinking?

Op-Ed: The Climate for Change

Al Gore writes an op-ed in the New York Times letting us know that our economic crisis and the climate change crisis can both be alleviated using the same methods. Whatever your understanding of global warming, I think that we can all agree on some of the basic things that need to happen in order for the U.S. to remain competitive in the world. Read his op-ed and let me know what you think.

How to Save the Coal Industry

This a great diary by a writer over at the Daily Kos. It is brutally honest and fair. The coal industry must adapt or perish, especially with renewables such as wind and solar nipping at the heals of the coal industry.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Under Obama, Dark Days Seen Ahead For Fossil Fuels

Pardon me for refraining from shedding a tear for the fossil fuel industry, but the dark days for fossil fuels should have happened back in the 1970s. How long must we remain at the mercy of Middle East oil or continue to dig/drill coal/oil/natural gas just to burn it and increase CO2 emissions? I'm ready for a dramatic and intelligent change in our national energy policy and I hope that President Obama will provide that change. I'm fully aware that we can't just flip a switch and blamo! renewable energy displaces fossil fuels and we all live happily ever after. But I'm also fully aware that the petroleum and coal industries are going to whine and complain loudly while never giving up a penny of their profits for the betterment of mankind. It's completely ridiculous that we listen to their horse manure of an excuse about lost jobs or that the coal industry is the backbone of our country. These are greedy individuals who only care about their profits. And until we stop listening to them and start thinking about other ways of producing energy, this country will continue to swirl the toilet drain of myopia.

Pheeww. Thanks for letting me vent.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

A Splash of Green for the Rust Belt

I do believe that renewable energy has the potential to save the U.S. from it's burgeoning demise at the hands of the financial sector. Don't ask me how I know this. It's just a gut feeling. We are about to go into a deep dark hole of a recession/depression/whatever you want to call it. Oil is a finite supply. Wind and solar are not. We can either reinvent ourselves as a country and fully embrace and build a clean tech economy or we can keep our heads in the sand (literally and figuratively) and watch ourselves swirl down the proverbial toilet.

Just read about the folks in Newton, Iowa who watched their jobs building Maytag washing machines migrate across the Pacific. It's been happening all over this country. Year after year adn decade after decade. The smart and determined ones adapt and find new sources of employment. In the Times article, Mr. Versendaal is an example of the smart and determined ones. Here's a line from this optimistic local in Newton, Iowa who works at the new wind turbine plant and whose dose of common sense towards clean technology is quite refreshing:

“Life’s not over,” Mr. Versendaal says. “For 35 years, I pounded my body to the ground. Now, I feel like I’m doing something beneficial for mankind and the United States. We’ve got to get used to depending on ourselves instead of something else, and wind is free. The wind is blowing out there for anybody to use.”

Let's hope that there are more Mr. Versendaal's out there in all of the decimated manufacturing towns across this country. We are in trouble if there's not.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Clean Energy Uprising in California

This is fascinating to me. A little old fashioned David vs. Goliath or raw mutiny. The people of San Francisco are trying to oust Pacific Gas and Electric as their utility provider. That's right, the people! want PG&E to go bye bye because they don't provide enough of their electricity from renewable sources. Dare to dream big kids. California already does.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Wind Turbine Blade Crashes Down in Illinois Field

Ouch. If there's one thing that cannot happen (like skyscrapers falling down for no reason or automobiles blowing up on impact) is a wind turbine blade cracking and falling off. I betcha they'd be a lot better off if they would've gone with wind turbines built in the Vestas plants right here in Colorado, as opposed to the turbines from India they used. Note to self, buy local.

Coal Versus Wind in West Virginia: From the Old Habits Die Hard Edition

In-depth article on the insatiable greed of mountain-top coal removal and the desire by the locals in West Virginia for something cleaner and more responsible. I've never been to West Virginia, so all I have is the news reports or stories I've heard over the years that have revealed the inner workings of the coal business and how it affects the residents. In the past I've tended to cut coal-mining some slack because it provided jobs (although extremely dangerous) for the local residents and their families. This in turn provided tax revenue to fuel their schools, roads, and businesses. So coal was a ticket to a better life in some respects and coal provides a lot of our electricity (around 50%). However, I also understand the complete and utter environmental devastation that is caused by both typical coal-mining and mountain-top coal removal, not to mention the by-products of burning the coal to produce electricity. Doesn't there come a time when quality of life trumps money? I think that the folks of West Virginia are beginning to see the light. We'll see if they can prevail over big business and provide a cleaner future for themselves and subsequent generations.

Xcel Energy Lowers Solar Credits, Angering Solar Installers

Well it was expected that Xcel would reduce the amount paid for solar renewable energy credits (they dropped it to $1.50 from $2.50). On the one hand I don't blame them for doing it since the Federal government extended solar credits in the recent financial bailout bill. Also, according to Xcel's calculations with the $1.50 per watt credit the consumer would have to come up with about $425 out of pocket to pay for a 4.5 kilowatt system. However, the amount of notice for the credit reduction that Xcel gave to the community and solar installers was too short and on the sly. Perhaps it's time to start another ballot initiative that requires Colorado to get 40% of their energy from renewable sources by 2020, instead of the current 20% by 2020? That might bring back the $2.50 per watt credit, eh?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Big Difference in Obama's and McCain's Plans for Our Energy Future

Great article on the difference between Obama's and McCain's energy plans. Both plans do not go far enough in my opinion, but there is one plan that is heads and shoulders above the other. Read the article and find out who you should vote for.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

U.S. Forest Service Turns to Cow Power

Kudos to the U.S. Forest Service for finding alternative methods of creating electricity. Now, methane is still a fossil fuel, but this cow power plant is capturing the methane from cow manure and other agricultural waste to burn it in order to generate electricity. If the methane wasn't captured it would just waft into the air and contribute to greenhouse gas emissions (the article says that methane is 20 times more harmful than CO2 in trapping heat in the Earth's atmosphere). So I can't complain too much. I betcha we could capture a lot of that there methane up in Greeley, Colorado.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Momentum Slows for Alternative Energy

I've been watching gas prices fall with trepidation for a couple of months now. It's always the same in this short attention span and myopic theater of a country. When our pocket books are lifted in the form of higher gas prices we scream like newborns. Then when gas prices go back to "normal" we act as if nothing happened and quickly forget the pain that we were supposedly feeling at the time. There's no planning for the future. There's no thinking about the "what ifs." It's sad really.

I haven't given up hope for investment in renewable energy and for America to one day be the RE capital of the world. But as gas prices plunge and as our economy keeps slipping into a deep recession, I realize that it is going to take longer than I would like and a longer amount of time than we can afford.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

UN Says Their "Green Economy Initiative" Can Save World's Economy

The UN's "Green Economy Initiative" sounds like a great plan. Well researched and well thought out. There is no reason why we can't create a global, cleantech economy, which would go a long way to easing the recession that we are now in. So check it out and see what you can do to contribute to a renewable energy economy.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Funds, Too, Are Mining New Energy Sources

Good article in the NY Times on, "exchange traded funds" which are beginning to focus on alternative energy sources. There aren't a lot of these type of funds yet but they have proliferated over the last year. Let's hope that with the increasing price of oil (and dwindling supply) the alternative energy market will take off here in the States.

Oh, and at the top of the article check out the picture of a Vestas wind turbine blade plant in Colorado.

Aurora, Colorado Lands Massive Solar Project

Another article on the, "Solar Technology Acceleration Center" to be built in Aurora, Colorado. I am getting more excited with each article I read on this center. You and I will be able to see and use cutting edge solar technologies faster with this testing facility. Sweet.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Midwest Research Institute Will Develop Solar Test Facility

Excellent. Midwest Research Institute (MRI) is going to build a solar test and evaluation facility in Aurora, Colorado. This will help universities and solar businesses bring their solar technologies to the market faster. This is good news for the RE industry and for Colorado.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Credit Crunch Creates Catch-22 on Renewable Energy

So here's a man who is fed up with high utility bills. Like any rational being, he decides to take some action and reduce that expenditure that he pays out to the utility each month by installing solar panels on his roof. He goes to his bank to ask for a loan because he doesn't have the 10's of thousands of dollars to pay the solar company. He's told that credit has dried up and he can't get that loan.

Even though I am optimistic I have a gnawing feeling that this will be the rule for the foreseeable future (even with the RE tax credits). Credit is drying up folks and there is nothing that we can do about it. I'm just thinking out loud here but I sure hope that this doesn't kill the RE industry, otherwise there are going to be a lot of people unable to heat their homes.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Call for a New U.S. Renewable Energy Policy

This opinion piece makes the case for a new comprehensive federal renewable energy policy. The author gives numerous facts to show that all we have to do is change our thinking just a wee bit and we can go from the biggest polluter and energy consumer for our size to something dramatically less. For instance:

A 2007 Department of Energy report states that energy efficiency measures can reduce the nation's energy demand growth 50 percent by 2025.

50 percent. That's an incredible amount from just completing energy audits (and subsequent retrofits) on all of our buildings. Here's another tidbit from the article:

"The measures that would drastically cut our carbon emissions also would create millions of good-paying domestic jobs in clean industries. Furthermore, jobs in the green collar labor force are resistant to offshoring."

Made in America could be a household term again and job creation could ease some of the pain this recession impose upon us. There's much that could happen with the right leadership, from Congress and more importantly from the President of the United States. I sure hope that an RE policy is at the very top of the agenda in the next administration.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Building Jobs with Renewable Energy: Colorado's Booming Energy Business

Great article on Colorado's bright future as a renewable energy leader. I am convinced that we can become the RE capital of the U.S. if not the world. We have the educated workforce, the desire to innovate, and a solid foundation of educational and research institutions on the Front Range (think Colorado School of Mines, NREL, and Red Rocks Community College). It's possible with a little perseverance and elbow grease. In addition, the impending recession doesn't have to be as brutal if we can begin to think about how to transition the old economy workforce to the new RE economy workforce.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Green Energy Boom In Bailout Bill

More info on the renewable energy (RE) tax credits in the "bailout" bill. But this one has a bit more on the how much the RE industry could benefit. Have a gander.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Crisis Puts Tax Moves Into Play

Well, it looks like I am going to get the renewable energy (RE) tax credits that I keep asking for. The Senate managed to stuff it in the financial "bailout" bill along with other bits of pork. So it's bittersweet and maybe a bit depressing. This is not the way I want to see the RE tax credits go down and it seems a bit dirty to me. I'd rather have the RE tax credits paid for with a reduction or elimination of the oil and gas tax credits. But the oil and gas lobby is too large and powerful I guess. We'll see if this financial bailout bill passes the House.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Colorado Utility Powers Up on Renewable Energy

This shows you the difference between the old way of thinking and the new way of thinking with respect to energy generation. Colorado Springs Utilities in Colorado used to think that coal-fired electricity plants were the way to go. Coal was cheap and was cheaper than any other renewable energy source. But we are moving into a new era where the price of coal will increase because of the difficulty and expense of extraction in addition to the detrimental effects that coal burning does to the atmosphere. Instead of stubbornness, Colorado Springs Utilities decided to think outside the box and explore news ways of not only creating energy from renewable sources but also incenting customers to conserve energy. Read the article, it may just give you some ideas.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

PUC Approves Xcel Plan to Replace Coal Plants with Greener Tech

Via Coyote Gulch blog, good news from Xcel Energy. Their request for retirement of old and inefficient coal-fired power plants to be replaced with greener technologies has been approved by the PUC. Excellent.

Friday, September 26, 2008

House OKs Extending Renewable Energy Tax Credits

Here we go again. It's not that I'm disappointed (obviously) that the RE tax credit bill is up for a vote again, it's that the House and the Senate bills differ. The differences between the bills mean that it may not pass (again) when it goes back to the Senate. As far as I can tell from this article, the House bill adds provisions that help pay for the tax breaks (what that is, I'm not sure) and the House bill also:

"...does not provide tax incentives for refineries to process oil from shale and tar sands or for projects that turn coal into liquid fuel."

I'm glad that refineries for oil from shale and tar sands won't have a tax incentive. Have you seen what they do up in Albert, Canada to squeeze oil out of the tar sands up there? The land is completely demolished. It looks like Mars. Imagine doing this to the Western slope of Colorado. No way.

Update: The Houston Chronicle does a deeper dive on the House bill here.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Solar Pioneer Uses His Noodle to Reduce His Heating Bill

This is a great article on what a little hard work and ingenuity can do to reduce some heating bills. A gentleman in Michigan was frustrated at his rising heating bills back in the early 80's and as the article says:

"After taking a solar energy class at a community college, he cobbled together a concept and some wholesale equipment to create a large solar collector on the south side of his Lewis Avenue home."

He built a solar collector from scratch after having taken one class! He said that his house can reach 80 degrees Fahrenheit in the dead of a freezing Michigan winter and that his monthly heating bill rarely exceeds 40 bucks. Imagine the possibilities and the ideas that will come about if we could retrain some of the U.S. workforce for clean tech jobs. How long do we need to remain at the mercy of rising natural gas bills?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Xcel Expects 12 Percent Rise in Winter Bills

It's going to be a tough winter for a lot of people that depend on natural gas for their heating needs. The article says that the typical residential customer would pay $151 in December. Wow. Perhaps the Colorado Governor's Energy Office could figure out a way to help those with fixed and low incomes get access to low cost or free energy audits. If we were able to retrofit our homes with energy efficient materials (insulation, duct repair, etc.) we could save a ton of money on our heating bills in the winter. Just a thought.

Duke Energy to Invest in Mini Solar Power Plants

This is a good development. Duke Energy is essentially starting a pilot of localized energy production via a solar power plant. Instead of a large power plant in one location this solar power plant will be made up of numerous houses with PV panels on the roof. Duke Energy will study the effects of this method to see if it can replace the typical single location power plant. From the article:

The utility said that next year it plans to start installing solar electric panels at 850 locations in North Carolina that would be capable of generating 16 megawatts of electricity, or enough to power about 2,600 homes.

Cool. Hopefully the results are positive.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Thin-Film Solar Set to Take Market Share From Crystalline Solar PV

This may help provide some competition to the traditional crystalline PV panels (which may help reduce prices of the crystalline panels! See the article below for bad news on prices). Thin-film solar is lighter weight, and easier to apply to existing surfaces than traditional PV panels, which are bulky and heavy. Even though the efficiency of thin-film solar is much lower than the traditional PV panels, you are able to install the thin-film just about anywhere and in mass quantities. Check out this site for a simple description of thin-film solar.

Solar Panel Prices Might Not Decline As Much As Thought

Darn. We could get the double whammy of no extended federal tax credits and PV prices not falling as quickly as expected. This won't help the individual homeowner who'd like to offset his/her electricity needs with some PV. I was looking forward to price decreases in the next couple of years so that my ROI would be quicker. Alas, I guess we'll have to wait.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Take a Virtual Tour of a Geothermal Plant

Check out this informative animation on how a geothermal plant works. It's pretty cool.

Carver Seeks to Put Solar Plant on Route 44

Looks like Carver, Massachusetts wants to put a solar array along a state route. They want to use the array to power their water system. It's refreshing to hear about towns that are thinking out of the "coal generated power plant" box. Go Carver, I hope you get the array.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Solar Energy Can Bring Clean Energy to over 4 Billion People by 2030

Solar energy to 4 billion people! I'm ready. Sign me up. But seriously, like the article says, it will require smart policy by governments. Each day I become more and more convinced that renewable energy is the cure to most of our problems, if, IF our leaders are willing to think about our future.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Ouray, Colorado Explores Municipal Use of Geothermal Energy

Looks like southwestern Colorado is exploring the idea of geothermal heating. I haven't spent much time talking about geothermal. I'm going to have to find some links for you folks that explores geothermal technology in a little more detail.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Renewable Energy's Biggest Wish

Any politician that doesn't include tax credits for renewables in his or her energy proposal is not serious about steering this country towards a renewable energy path. They also aren't serious about weening us off of fossil fuels. I've talked about tax credits before here so you know where I stand (shorter version: take tax credits away from an established industry like oil and gas and give it to a burgeoning industry like clean tech). Without tax credits renewable energy will take a much longer time to permeate through our society via clean tech energy production, market stability, and job creation. Read yet another article here on why Congress needs to extend (for a longer period of time) the renewable energy tax credits for businesses and individuals.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Investor Interest in Algae Grows

This is good. Anything that can be used for fuel that is not a food source is heading in the right direction. I've discussed it before ad infinitum, but I will say it once more. Making fuel out of food sources to run our automobiles is unconscionable. Anyway, read the article and see who the key players are in producing algae biofuels. A little snippet from the article that speaks to why algae is becoming a popular biofuel:

"Algae has emerged as a leading candidate as a source of biofuel thanks to the ease with which it grows, the low level of feedstocks needed to produce it, and the fact that it does not use up as much land area as other sources of biofuel."

Monday, September 1, 2008

Renewable Energy Fuels Colorado Governor

Another article that speaks to the work Governor Bill Ritter has done to firmly entrench renewable energy in the economy of the state of Colorado. As we've seen with Vestas Wind Systems' addition of 2,500 jobs and the renewable energy ballot initiative passed by Colorado voters (to just name a couple) this state is demonstrating the commitment to becoming a leader in clean sources of energy. This also demonstrates that there are elected officials that are interested and passionate about making government work for the people. Thanks to Governor Ritter for looking out for Colorado's future.

Obama Ups Clean-tech Cred at Convention

Cleantech venture capitalists support Obama's energy plan in this Cnet article. If you want to know why they endorse it you can read about his plan for yourself here.

Vestas Praises Colorado's New Energy Economy

Vestas energy let the public know why they decided to invest $600 million in the state of Colorado. Here's the line that about sums it up:

"Colorado should be a model for the U.S. and the world in what can be done in the state when the governor and the congressional delegation team up."

Hats off to Colorado Governor Bill Ritter, U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar; and U.S. Rep. Mark Udall for making this possible. And it's interesting that they are all Democrats.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Energy Challenge: Wind Energy Bumps Into Power Grid’s Limits

It certainly is a challenge. We must not forget about transmission when on this renewable energy bender. Our grid is composed of one hundred year old technology. If we want to start transmitting power from the windy plains or the sunny west to the coasts then we will have to build new transmission lines. No question about it. A sobering statement from the article,

"The windiest sites have not been built, because there is no way to move that electricity from there to the load centers."

We have a lot of work to do. But a possible solution may be in the concept of localization. Or in other words our communities and neighborhoods are going to have to start producing power locally as opposed to getting the power from a utility miles away. Local power production, local food production, and local manufacturing would help to solve a lot of problems, no?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The End of Suburbia - Gulp!

In my Intro to Energy class this week, we eased into the semester by watching the movie, "End of Suburbia." In addition to scaring the hell out of me, that movie was a clear demonstration of how finite fossil fuels really are and at the same time how dependent upon them we are. Our American lives are completely wrapped up in oil (of which about 60% comes from the Middle East) and coal for electricity. An interesting point in the movie was that the American way of life was in some respect guided by the consumption of fossil fuel (think the suburbs, roads, commutes, transporting food in trucks and cars, instead of increasing density urban development, rails and trains, walking and localized food production). Fossil fuels are our masters, but according to this documentary not for long.

The documentary also discusses the theory (now fact?) of peak oil and explains the growing consensus of belief in that theory by policy makers and scientists around the planet. Most are beginning to realize that peak oil is occurring now (the sweet light crude oil has been pumped already, and the Middle Eastern nations are spending extra money and energy extracting the heavier, harder to refine crude oil at the bottom of the wells. This all leads to an extended refining process, a gradual dwindling of supply and of course higher prices for everything). Simply put, our economy can't grow at a regular rate without reliable and cheap fossil fuels. What happens if it becomes cost prohibitive to ship goods from China to our shores? Well for one, we will have to start creating the goods locally. In addition, we will begin to see the end of big-box retailers and the rise of local mom and pop stores.

So get the movie for a good dose of reality and let's start to think about life after oil. You may think that I am crazy for even suggesting that oil will run out. Life without oil! It's just not possible. Well, we can't burn our way into oblivion (whether it be coal or oil) because the supply is finite. We can't burn our way into oblivion because the environment of the planet and the health of humans and animals can't handle the carbon emissions. We can't burn our way into oblivion because the global demand is outpacing supply, oil output has peaked, and an economy can't continue grow without reliable electricity and transportation means.

It is time for us to make short and long-term plans to reduce our consumption of fossil fuels, in addition to retrofitting suburbia into localized, urban-like units where we can walk to the store, we can grow our own food for our local neighborhood instead of driving to the grocery to get food trucked in from out of state, and were we can start to get to know our neighbors so that ideas on how to confront this crisis will flourish.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Inside the Future of Electric Cars, Hydrogen and Next-Gen Biofuels

Informative article on what our future could look like with respect to fuel. My money's on plug-in electric vehicles and more light rail transportation (for longer journeys). We will have to start getting serious about our modes of transportation to and from work. We will either have to move closer to our jobs, work from home more often, create more public transportation, and/or creating electric/hydrogen/biofuel cars. Or how about all of the above!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Vestas Launches $100 Million Consumer Ad Campaign In U.S.

Vestas is putting up a lot of dough for a wind marketing campaign to educate the U.S. public about this "modern energy" and clean technology. We are going to need all of the education on this topic that we can get.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Plane that Flies on Solar Power

This is a crazy and beautiful expression of human imagination and ambition. The inventors (Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg) have built a solar-powered plane and hope to circumnavigate the globe one day soon. One their reasons for trying this was that they simply wanted to fly without fuel. Cool. I wish I could go with them while they fly that thing around the planet. And we wish those gents the best of luck.

Vestas Pursues 'Modern Energy'

Nice article on the Vestas Wind Systems in The Pueblo Chieftain. It gives you a little history about the company. Vestas is the Danish wind turbine company building a couple of plants here in Colorado. These new plants will employ a thousands of people around the state. And it also looks like Vestas is building a plant in Pueblo as well.

Ag Secretary: Biofuels Good for Farmers, Security

What a hack. Not to mention a fabricator. U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer decided to blow smoke up the yin yang's of South Dakotan farmers the other day, by saying that biofuels are going to bring them riches and improved national security. You'll be rich! I'm sure that those farmer's have smelled enough cow manure in their day...

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Bloomberg Calls for Alternative Energy

In addition to businesses speaking up about renewable energy, we also need mayor's and governor's engaging their constituents on the issue. Renewable energy doesn't just have to be for the suburban or rural folks. We can start thinking about how to transfer our urban areas into renewable energy power plants.

Business Leaders: Make Renewable Energy Cheaper

I am glad businesses are speaking up on renewable energy because that's the way Congress will listen (they certainly don't listen to us). In this case Google and G.E. say that renewable energy needs to be cheaper. I agree. One of the ways to begin to make it cheaper is to take subsidies away from oil companies and give it to the renewable energy industry and individuals in the form of tax credits. But since the Republicans in Congress have repeatedly blocked the extension of renewable energy tax credits we are at this impasse, with an entire clean tech industry waiting to take off.

Google Digs into Wallet for Geothermal Energy

Google's philanthropic arm dumps a cool $10 million (pocket change for them) into an enhanced geothermal method. I also like Google's goal to generate 1 gigawatt of energy from renewable sources. Go Google (and I am not just saying that because they provide the platform for this blog).

Nation's Most Visible Solar Array Dedicated at Denver International Airport

Cool. A 2 megawatt solar array was dedicated at Denver International Airport. How many solar panels can generate 2 megawatts? 9,200. Wow. I have to get myself out there to take a gander.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Let's Invest in Clean Energy

It's really this simple. Representative Hoyer lays it out nice and clear - invest in clean energy to get away from the stranglehold the "petroregimes" in the Middle East have over us.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Wind Turbines across Oregon Stir up Health Scare

I have some reservations about this article, but I will let it ride to see what you think. Apparently the doctor in this article has done some scientific studies that demonstrate/show/prove (?) health problems when living near wind turbines. Much ado about nothing? Or valid concern? I'll keep an eye on this one to see if the health concerns pan out.

Vestas Profit Jumps 27% on Higher Turbine Prices

Good news for Vestas Wind (which is building two more plants here in Colorado). I hope they continue their growth into the next decade. Now if we can just get some solar companies to grow like Vestas.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Sen. Reid's Energy Summit to begin Monday

Senator Reid of Nevada is having a "National Clean Energy Summit" in Vegas. Wish I could go. Looks like there are going to be some big wigs there as well.

McCain's Tilting at Wind Turbines

Sorry for the heavy dose of politics, but 'tis the season. Looks like McCain talks out of both sides of his mouth. Missing votes on key energy legislation, eight times? I wonder if all that lobbyist money is clouding his brain. So sad.

Franken Touts Energy Proposals

Al Franken is running for Senate in Minnesota. This article on Franken's energy proposals from the Bemidji Pioneer has a bit more information than the article I posted on Rep. Mark Udall Saturday. But I think that it shows how a campaign for a Senate seat doesn't have to move to the middle. With respect to drilling (and to be fair to my prior criticism of Udall), Franken does say that he thinks we should drill now and is pushing for drilling on areas where oil companies already have leases. However he follows up right away with the following bit of common sense:

“But we need to get off of this technology (oil), because we know that we’ve either reached or about to reach peak oil.”

Then towards the end of the article he says something that I believe every politican should have the integrity and strength to say to the face of all the oil executives and to all of those "drill now and drill often folks" that believe that the United States should continue to stay on this oil bender:

“We’re not going to drill our way out of this. … It won’t bring down oil prices, it simply won’t.”

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Udall, Schaffer Stake out Moderate Ground on Energy

I'm not sure what Representative Mark Udall is afraid of by playing this moderate game on energy. I'm becoming increasingly disgruntled with politicians who adopt moderate positions thinking that's the road to an elected seat in the Federal government. I know, I know, I shouldn't be so naive. But I am guessing that Udall is being disingenuous here. He knows full well that more drilling will not help reduce gas prices or reduce our consumption of Middle Eastern oil. The drilling myth has already been debunked and by anyone saying that we need more domestic drilling will only look like a fool later when we still will be sucking on Middle Eastern oil while paying 5,6,7,8 bucks a gallon. And don't even get me started on the environmental damage of the world's increased consumption.

We are addicted to a finite fossil fuel that pollutes our air, water, and land. Instead of trying to placate the "moderates" in Colorado, Udall should be putting all of his energy into making Colorado the renewable energy hub of the world, which will create jobs and generate revenue for this state. Even Senator Salazar is working towards it. Come on Mr. Udall find your soul and find your spine. Stop addressing the oil addicts and start addressing a cleantech future with renewable energy for Colorado.

NREL Says Solar Cell Sets Record for Efficiency

Congrats NREL. I love this race (at least in my mind) to solar cell efficiency. In this latest record, NREL converted 40.8% of the sun's light into electricity using an amalgamation of elements that I've never heard of (I need to brush up on the Periodic Table of Elements). The previous record was was 40.7%. What's the line in Vegas on 41%!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Wind Turbine That Imitates Flippers Could Increase Efficiency

Speaking of wind, check this article out in Discover magazine. A new design that mimics the fin of a humpback whale, may help slow down the inevitable "stall" that happens when the wind stops blowing. Cool.

Wind Turbine Maker Vestas Adding 1,350 Colorado Jobs

Excellent news from Vestas in Brighton, Colorado. It looks like wind turbine demand is starting to surge. Vestas will be building two plants in Brighton to help meet the extra orders.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Beware the Wind Energy Hot Air

Interesting editorial that points a critical eye towards T. Boone Pickens plan for accelerated wind power and natural gas to ween us off Mideast oil. I have to say that the author makes an interesting case against Mr. Pickens plan. I also must say that it's a little hard to trust a man who made billions off of that same oil he now wants us to say adios to. There is no altruism within a staunch capitalist. Personally I'm not a fan of the natural gas route because of what it does to the air and the ground when you pump it out. Plus it's not renewable and as Einstein once said, "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them."

Anyway, check the editorial out for yourself and let me know what you think.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Lab Makes Renewable Diesel Fuel from E. Coli Poop

I just had to post this because I love the headline. I can't remember a time when a headline had the word, "poop" in it. Kidding aside this is an interesting development by LS9, Inc. They have been feeding sugar to genetically altered bacteria and these bacteria have been pooping diesel fuel. Cool eh?

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Wind Farmers of East 11th Street

Groovy little article about an urban band of rogue idealists who put up a windmill on an East Village apartment building back in the 70s. It was the wild wild West with respect to renewable energy generation. People thought they were crazy for propping up this wind mill on an old building, but they did it and it offset some of their energy consumption with localized power production. Localized energy production can be done, it's just not in the collective pysche yet. Yet.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Big Win for Biofuels

Looks like the EPA denied Texas' request for a waiver from the mandate to add more ethanol to the fuel supply. We spoke about this in a post entitled, "Ethanol Industry Braces for EPA Decision on Its Future." We'll have to see how this plays out over the next year or so, but so far we've seen an unpleasant increase in corn prices, which has caused an unpleasant increase in food prices. I wonder when we will learn.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Loans for Renewable Energy to Make Fall Ballot

Boulder, Colorado has a renewable energy ballot initiative for voters this fall. Essentially they will vote on whether they will be able to take out loans (backed by $40 million in bonds) for energy efficient upgrades, to be paid back through a property lien over time. If they sell the house then the loan stays with the house. This is a great way to ease the upfront cost of a solar installation (for instance) on a typical home*. We'll see what Boulder voters do this fall.

*Remember, always get an energy audit first before you plunk down the coin to put PV or a solar thermal installation on your home.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Namaste Solar Electric Installs Solar Panels and Hope for Clean Energy

Great interview on Namaste Solar, a progressive solar company in Boulder, Colorado. Progressive values tied to a profitable business. What more can we ask for? Here's a line about the company to peak your interest: 

"Namaste's impressive growth has been accomplished with some of the most innovative, progressive corporate policies around, including six weeks of paid vacation for all employees, a uniform pay scale, decisions by consensus and a culture of openness and honesty - not to mention generous donations of solar systems to nonprofits."

Excellent job Namaste Solar.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Ritter Energized about Removing Oil, Gas Tax Credit

Another reason to admire Colorado Governor Bill Ritter. He's right. Taking on the oil and gas industry in Colorado is no easy feat. But this sums up what I've been saying about providing tax credits to help support the renewable energy industry:

"These are times when you provide a tax incentive to grow an industry. This is not the time for oil and gas."


Monday, August 4, 2008

Kids, Don't Write Disinformation Like This In Your Newspaper

I don't know why I am even posting this on my blog, but I was looking for a contrarian position on renewable energy today. I post a lot of pro-RE stuff and tend to avoid opposite viewpoints. But this opinion piece is typical of the reason why I can't find any well-thought and factually supported opposing viewpoints. And it's from a professor in the department of chemical and petroleum engineering at Kansas University who just cherry picked certain things to prove his point. The article is sort of like listening to your grandpa provide black and white solutions to current gray problems. Anyway, I could pick the opinion piece apart line by line, but I'll leave it up to you to sift through the sludge. Oh and by the way check out the comments at the bottom of the article.

First Wind Files for Public Offering

Ahhh initial public offerings (IPOs). Follow the money and you will find the next big thing. First Wind filed for an IPO and wants to trade on the NASDAQ under the symbol "WNDY." It appears that venture capital firms are starting to bet the farm that renewable energy companies are the next big thing. Excellent. These are exciting times indeed.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Unsettled Tax Credits Stymie Renewable Laws

As we wait for the renewable energy tax credits to get extended by Congress, the industry remains in a precarious limbo, with skittish investors and consumers tightening the belt in this sluggish economy. I personally am not pining away for tax credits from the Feds, even though I have and will continue to advocate for those tax credits. I just think that the polarization in Congress and unwillingness to come to a bipartisan compromise on renewable energy for our future is pathetic, myopic, and a sure sign that the palms of our reps are being thoroughly greased by the coal and petroleum industries. You can help wake up your rep by writing or calling them. They won't do anything progressive or new without a gigantic nudge by their constituents.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

'Major Discovery' from MIT Primed to Unleash Solar Revolution

Holy cow. We might have a revolution in renewable energy storage here. The ability to store actual power produced, from the wind or the sun let's say, is highly expensive and inefficient. This genius scientist at MIT (Daniel Nocera) created a way to store that excess energy for later use (such as a time when the wind is blowing or the sun isn't shining). And supposedly it is extremely easy to set up so that we all could have one at home. Read the press release to get all of the groovy details. That link also has a video on it of Professor Nocera describing his invention. This is phenomenal news.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Wind Energy Faces Daunting Challenges

I am glad to see some articles beginning to talk about transmission lines. We have all of these potential renewable energy sources that are located in various parts of the country, but how do we get that created power (from say the desert or the "wind corridor") to the home? Our current transmission lines are woefully inept and will need to be completely revamped. It's something that we must talk about before we unleash the flood gates of renewable energy power generation.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Next Generation of Alternative Energy

According to this article, concentrated solar power, algae, and ocean wave-power generation are attractive to venture capital firms. According to the article $2 billion in funding was served up to the cleantech industry in the second quarter of 2008. That's a lot of coin and encouraging to hear about. Now let's back that up with sound and intelligent legislation.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Agribusiness Heavies Form Biofuels Lobbying Group

Great. I guess we've come to this as a society. Even as food prices go higher, as people have trouble putting food on their tables, and as millions of people go hungry each night around the world, lobbyists will come in, wave gobs of cash around, and buy out our elected officials to promote crops as biofuels. It is all about the money. How pathetic.

Where Would America’s Renewable Energy Come From?

Nice and easy to comprehend article on where the U.S. can get all of its renewable energy. Plus it uses some cool maps from NREL on where this renewable energy resides within our borders.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

A Modest Proposal: Eco-Friendly Stimulus

For some reason I have a rash of car posts this lazy, hot Sunday. We have another thought-provoking article from Alan S. Blinder, an economics professor. It's an interesting concept to help get out cars off the road and stimulate demand for new ones. From the article:

"A California study estimated that cars 13 years old and older accounted for 25 percent of the miles driven but 75 percent of all pollution from cars. So we can reduce pollution by pulling some of these wrecks off the road. Several pilot programs have found that doing so is a cost-effective way to reduce emissions."

So we can clean the environment and create the demand for newer, cleaner, more efficient automobiles, by paying, "Cash for Clunkers." It's a pin-pointed policy proposal with a direct, measurable result. Plus this smart policy proposal beats just handing out a $600 "stimulus check" that could be used randomly on anything and not create a greater good for an industry and a country. What do you think?

GM and the New Plug-In Infrastructure

If indeed electric plug-in cars are our future then there are numerous things to think about before it becomes a reality. It isn't simply plugging the car into your outlet in the garage or at work, as this article points out. We need to come up with standards and policies that will govern access to power and determine what the infrastructure will look and act like. Even though the author frets a little too much over things that in my opinion aren't necessary to foster a plug-in infrastructure, it is a good piece to help you get the conversation going about what a future with plug-in cars will look like.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

EPA Puts Off Renewable Fuels Waiver Decision until August

As we talked about on Wednesday with this post, "Ethanol Industry Braces for EPA Decision on Its Future," the EPA was supposed to make a decision today on whether or not to waive the ethanol mandate. Well, the EPA couldn't make it, but they did say that the decision would be made in, "early August." That's right around the corner.

Saharan Sun to Power European Supergrid

The idea that the ever burning sun in the Sahara could be home to PV and CSP energy plants and provide Europe all of its power needs is gaining steam again (no pun intended). Some of the challenges are redoing the grid by installing transmission lines that do not lose power over long distances. Transmitting power in DC will allow for transmission of power over longer distances with minimum power loss. However the current, which is usually created in AC, would have to be converted to DC first. These power inverters tend to be expensive.

Another challenge, with respect to Europeans getting their power from the Sahara in Africa, was addressed in my previous post, "Renewable OPEC: Careful What You Wish For."

I am glad that the Europeans are discussing the generation of their power from renewable means rather than falling back on the old dirty reliables, coal and nuclear.

Solar Thermal Energy Coming to a Boil - Peak Oil

Great overview about concentrated solar power (CSP) from the North Denver News. This is our best hope for providing maximum power (more so than PV) that is clean and renewable. Also check out my older post titled, "Heat Is Much Easier to Store Than Electricity, Dreaming of a Low-Carbon Economy" for more on the phenomenal benefits of CSP.

New California Law Allows Cities to Give Loans for Energy-saving Improvements

Excellent. Low-interest loans offered by cities for solar panels or energy efficient air conditioners that can be paid back over decades through property taxes. This is an innovative way for a city to reduce it's carbon footprint, for individuals to start generating their own power, and jump-starting the solar industry in those communities.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

NREL Solar Research Gains Two R&D 100 Awards

Congrats to NREL for getting two awards this year. And check out what they got them for:

"An ultra-light, highly efficient solar cell and use of ink-jet printing to manufacture thin-film photovoltaics—both developed at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory—have been named among this year’s most significant innovations by Research & Development (R&D) Magazine."

You mean I could someday print my own solar panels! I am giddy with anticipation.

Ethanol Industry Braces for EPA Decision on Its Future

Tough decision by the EPA this week (Thursday). Should they keep the mandate to add more ethanol to the fuel supply which will make the farmers, ethanol producers, and auto industry happy? Or will will they waive the mandate which will supposedly help keep food prices at bay and the rest of us consumers happy? Read this article to find out the arguments.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Island in the Wind: A Danish Community’s Victory over Carbon Emissions

"Once people on Samsø started thinking about energy, a local farmer explains, “it became a kind of sport.”

That is a line from a recent New Yorker article that a reader pointed out to me. It is a line that, for me, provokes a little more thought. How many of us think about something to the point where it becomes a challenge to our minds. Can renewable energy and energy efficiency ever be that something? It certainly has been gaining a lot of traction in the traditional media and even to a greater extent within the mainstream media (i.e., the blogs!).

The article itself, written by Elizabeth Kolbert, is a wonderful read. From the beginning we are immersed in this community in Denmark and are led to discover how the determination of a few people can become infectious and translate into action. It gives me hope that Al Gore's proposal of all of our electricity generation from renewable sources in 10 years is completely possible, if we just put our minds together.

For the longest time I haven't heard the phrase uttered, "You can do it, if you put your mind to it." When's the last time you heard it? I miss that America. I think she's ripe for a new challenge. A challenge that will take collective brain power and will power, and most importantly, a suspension of disbelief.

Renewable energy is right. Right economically, politically, and environmentally. Now all we have to do is act. Do we want to sit and wait for gas prices to go through the roof to the point where we can't afford to drive to work or to school or to the grocery store? Or will we put our heads together and find another way to transport ourselves that is cheaper and kinder to the environment and uses renewable sources?

So read the article and let me know your thoughts. I think we can do it. What say you?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Answer's in the Wind - and Sun

Here's a good pro wind and sun article in the Washington Post by an oil and natural gas guy. His main focus is that, "hydrocarbons will be priced out of the market" and solar and wind technologies will be there to fill in the gap. Now, in my humble opinion, this isn't an excuse to wait for the invisible hand of the "market" to guide us to the promised land of some future cheaper renewable energies (how did the unregulated market treat us with respect to the current financial mess we are in?). We must act now to redo our national transmission grid, help folks retrofit their homes to be energy efficient, reduce our consumption of foreign oil (about 70% of our oil is purchased from foreign sources), promote localized energy consumption through solar, wind, and geothermal, create plug-in electric automobiles for commuters, increase public transportation lines, and educate, educate, educate. How do we get to this point? Lots of intelligent investment, both public and private funds, and intelligent, comprehensive policy. Is it possible? Yes. Do we have the will to change? That's up to you dear reader.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Sunnyvale School Districts Installing Solar Panels to Cut Energy Costs

Hopefully we will begin to see more of this. Schools are open during peak solar time (so are most businesses) and should be able to meet part of their electricity needs with a modest PV installation. Add a solar hot water heater and they could meet some more. And even before that an energy audit of the building itself. Just think, every school across the land generating most of their own power. What a learning experience for the children.

Texas Approves Massive New Wind Power Project

In the headline it should say, "and yet another wind power project." I tell ya', Texas is really tearing it up with the wind power. It's the new, "Texas tea." They're adding another 13,000 megawatts of wind power at about $4.9 billion dollars. That is just incredible. Don't mess with Texas!

Somebody Finally Had the Courage to Say It

Al Gore gave a speech today in Washington D.C. that pretty much summed up what needs to happen in this country. And he says we can complete it within 10 years. And to quote former Vice President Gore:

"The answer is to end our reliance on carbon-based fuels."

He proposes that we first produce all of our electricity through carbon-free sources, i.e., solar, wind, and geothermal. I'm not positive that we can do 100% renewable for all of our electricity needs in 10 years. We've got massive infrastructure problems for one. But I do believe that it is at least a goal that we can see and begin to work towards, just like we had when we landed a man on the moon. Enough of the lip speak, let's start acting!

Read the speech and let me know what you think.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Did Oil Execs Luck into Record Pay?

Read this article and then tell me with a straight face that, "Congress should keep giving oil companies billions of dollars of tax payer subsidies because they are a new market trying to get off the ground." When will the madness of excessive profit at the expense of our pocketbooks end? I'm not advocating socialism here, just a little bit of a balance.

Energy Interview with Amory Lovins

Informative interview in Mother Jones with the founder of the Rocky Mountain Institute, Amory Lovins. I have just started the book he co-wrote called "Natural Capitalism" (see the Analog Reading margin in the right hand margin for a link to Amazon). In the interview he insists that subsidies for energy (renewable or not) are not the way to go, because energy policy on a federal level is not effective. I believe he has a point but I am not ready to give up on federal subsidies for the renewable energy industry (at the same time decreasing subsidies for coal and oil). I also think that in addition to the subsidies we should pursue all of the ideas he presents in the interview (like making existing buildings energy efficient) to make energy profitable for both the consumer and the distributor. I'm probably wrong though, as Mr. Lovins has been at this a lot longer than I have and is a heck of a lot smarter. Read the interview and let me know what you think.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Gas Prices: What's the Future Look Like?

A reader posted a comment on the "NREL, A123Systems battery research" post. He/she said,

"Within 10 years half the automobiles on the road will be battery powered. They will be able to go 200 miles on a charge and be as capable as our current autos. Most power plants will be powered by natural gas or wind and some solar."

Having said this, do you agree? What does our future look like with $10 a gallon of gas? There's no way that our stagnate incomes/slowing economy can afford 10 bucks a gallon. No way. So if gas does get that high what does the world look like? How do we get to work? How does our food get transported to the grocery store? How do our kids get to school? What will containers (made out of petroleum-based plastic) become? Lots of things will have to change with $10 a gallon.

It is an exciting time to be alive and change is coming whether we want or not. But after so many years of easy living in the states (relative to other places around the globe) don't we need a challenge to get the blood moving again, the old brain thinking again, and the will power thriving again? I think so, do you?

MIT Increases Efficiency of Solar Panels

Phenomenal news. MIT has figured out a way to increase solar panel efficiency by, "making more efficient use of the full spectrum of sunlight." This will reduce the expense of the panel in a big way by allowing more bang for the buck and generating a quicker ROI. Go MIT.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

NREL, A123Systems Join on Battery Research

This will be a great combination - the very capable research abilities of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the cash-infused private manufacturing company, A123Systems. If we are going to switch over to hybrid cars in the coming years we are going to have to create batteries that can hold more charge for longer periods of time.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

A Zero Emissions House for the G-8 Summit

The G-8 attendees are in for a treat in Japan. Hopefully they'll pay attention when they take a tour of the zero emissions house and bring some of those ideas back to their respective countries. Here's to wishful thinking.

The Next President’s First Task [A Manifesto]

An informative and well-written piece by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. in Vanity Fair magazine. Renewable energy is an imperative for the U.S. to get back on its feet as a nation. Iceland did it. And the next President of the U.S. needs to realize this. From the article:

"Today, we don’t need to abolish carbon as an energy source in order to see its inefficiencies starkly, or to understand that this addiction is the principal drag on American capitalism. The evidence is before our eyes. The practice of borrowing a billion dollars each day to buy foreign oil has caused the American dollar to implode."

A billion dollars each day. Wow. Or how about this:

"Carbon dependence has eroded our economic power, destroyed our moral authority, diminished our international influence and prestige, endangered our national security, and damaged our health and landscapes. It is subverting everything we value."

Go read the whole thing and start thinking about what we must do to bring this economy back to sanity starting yesterday.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Markey Tackles Energy Policies in Colorado's 4th Congressional District

Betsy Markey of the Democratic Party is running against the incumbent Republican Representative Marilyn Musgrave in Colorado's 4th Congressional district. I'm glad to see energy as a leading topic in this year's election. Most if not all of our Colorado Congressional and Senatorial candidates are speaking about energy, but perhaps not discussing enough renewable energy. Let's make sure that we let our candidates know that we can't drill or mine our way out of this problem and instead we need clear and comprehensive energy reform that creates new jobs and weans us off of fossil fuels as quickly as possible. Cleantech initiatives such as solar and wind should be the focus along with an in-depth study of non-agricultural biofuels. Write 'em or call 'em! Go Betsy!

Colorado Governor Meeting with Renewable Energy Companies in Spain

Ahhhh, lucky Governor Ritter jaunting off to beautiful Spain to drum up some investment for Colorado. Good work Governor. Let us know how your trip went after you get back.

A Cloth to Cut the Mercury Risk From Light Bulbs

Interesting way to capture the mercury from a broken compact fluorescent light bulb.

Large Solar Energy Array Set for G.M. in Spain

This is good news. It's even better that an American company from the state of Michigan is building the solar array in Spain. Probably has something to do with GM being an American company but we take what we can get. Hopefully other companies with gigantic warehouses and plants will follow GM's lead.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Inventor Uses Tornadoes as Energy Source

Harnessing the energy from a tornado. Nice. One night while I was listening to late night radio a few years ago, they were talking about some of the incredible damage that a couple of tornadoes did to small towns in the Midwest. I remember a caller asking if it was possible to harness the tornado's tremendous amount of energy. Well, apparently a budding genius is on his way to figuring out how to create a tornado in a controlled environment.

"A tornado may sound like a tough thing to create, but all you need to do is find a way to heat an elevated layer of air so that the temperature is much higher than that of the air below, which will create a vortex."

From the article it's not clear if the temperature fluctuations are generated by renewable sources but this is definitely a neat way of generating energy. Only $60 mil to build the tornado facility. Pocket change right?

To generate a tornado, you just have to radically heat the "elevated" air. I wonder what the difference in temperature is in order to generate a tornado. Is there a NOAA scientist out there?

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Laugh at High Gas Prices With a 235-MPG VW

These next few years are going to be terribly exciting in the automotive industry. American companies are being forced by consumers to downsize their autos and foreign auto companies are putting fuel efficient cars into production quicker than expected. MPG is king. Check out this 235 MPG Volkswagen. Looks like fun.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Secret Report: Biofuel Caused Food Crisis

Is this the nail in the coffin for food-based biofuels? If this report is to be believed (and I have no reason to doubt the accuracy of the World Bank now that Paul Wolfowitz is gone), plant-based fuel sources caused a 75% increase in global food prices. 75%.

Oh and the only reason it is a "secret" report is because of this "belief":

"Senior development sources believe the report, completed in April, has not been published to avoid embarrassing President George Bush."

Millions of folks are starving and cannot afford to buy food around the globe and the World Bank is worried about embarrassing President Bush? How sad is that? We need to wake up.

Oh and here is another money quote from Robert Bailey, policy adviser at Oxfam:

"It is imperative that we have the full picture. While politicians concentrate on keeping industry lobbies happy, people in poor countries cannot afford enough to eat."

The lobbyists are corrupting the problem. They always do. Can we recognize that the deep-pocketed lobbyists who put unlimited reams of cash into our politicians pockets are not looking out for the best interest of the average person? If we don't recognize this, then we will all suffer from the horrible policies created by the heavy influence of these lobbies.

McConnell Says Gulf States 'think oil rigs are pretty'

Here's another out of touch U.S. Senator saying that folks in the Gulf states "think oil rigs are pretty." Note to anybody that is listening: any politico who promotes offshore drilling or drilling in the Artic National Wildlife Refuge to reduce the price of gas at the pump is blowing smoke up your tail pipe and pandering to your fears. The only way to reduce gas prices in the near future is to supplement fossil fuels with other energy sources. We cannot drill our way out of this problem.

Senator Bernie Sanders Backs New Solar Power Initiative

Ahhhh, Senator Bernie Sanders is such a breath of fresh air in these stagnate, myopic times. He is proposing an initiative to put 10 million solar panels on 10 million homes and businesses in the U.S. Just imagine the self-sufficiency that this country would experience, not to mention the jobs created. I am growing weary at any mention of drilling our way out of high gas prices or anything that has to do with fossil fuels to cure what ails us. There is a need for strong leadership and not business as usual. Give Senator Sanders a call or email him and let him know that you appreciate his willingness to present refreshing ideas to help wean us off fossil fuels for out energy needs.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

BLM Lifts Solar Moratorium 21 Months Early

Well that was quick. BLM decided to drop the moratorium on new solar plant applications after some heat from a U.S. Senator and the solar industry. Good. Let's keep in mind that we the people still have to poke and prod our government officials every once and awhile. The squeaky wheel gets the oil.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Oil Shale May Figure into GOP's Energy Plan

How long until Senator Wayne Allard's term is over? I have to say that Republicans just want to drill more holes in the land and squeeze more oil out of shale in a feeble attempt to extricate ourselves from the onslaught of high oil prices. Read this article and it will give you an idea of how out of touch the GOP is with regards to generating sound energy policy and instead want to keep providing benefits to big oil companies. Plus Senator Ken Salazar gives Allard a little smack down.

Ethanol Plants Taking Big Hits, Shutting Down

Wow. I didn't see this one coming. The price of grains are going through the roof because of massive flooding in the Midwest. This in turn is causing ethanol production plants to literally shut down and go bankrupt. Ethanol plants to be built will remain on the drawing board and probably never will come to fruition. This isn't a told you so moment, but it is a moment for reflection. We need to think on a deeper level about what happens when we use fertile land to grow food to put gas in our cars. We also need to think about other ways to move us away from our insatiable thirst of Middle Eastern oil. Is that cellulosic ethanol or fuel from our municipal waste? Necessity is the mother of all invention, right?

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Mercedes to Cut Petroleum Out of Lineup by 2015

Via Eco Geek we have an article that Mercedes-Benz is going to phase out petroleum based cars by 2015 and instead focus on electric plug-in, fuel cell, and biofuel run cars. Nice. I certainly applaud the courage of the Germans for moving in that direction. As well, this is going to take a new way of thinking about generating electricity (for the electric plug-in cars) because of all the extra demand for power. We definitely can't burn more coal, so what do we do? Solar PV, CSP, and wind is what we do.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Citing Need for Assessments, U.S. Freezes Solar Energy Projects

Looks like the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is putting a stop to any further requests for solar power plants on government land due to the need for environmental impact studies. Not still accept and evaluate applications during the environmental studies, but a complete moratorium on applications. These studies will take two years and then I guess applications can resume.

Now I am, what some may say a lefty, a tree-hugger, ice-cream sandwich lover, and whatever else, but I am also a big fan of common sense trumping policy. The common sense being the need to start offsetting our energy consumption with clean energy methods starting yesterday and the policy being the environmental impact of said energy generation on the land, air, water and animals. And you mean to tell me that the oil and gas that's being drilled in pristine wilderness areas is having less of an impact than a CSP plant or solar array?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Wind Farm to Be Built Off Delaware Shore

Nice, a wind farm off the coast of Delaware. The article says that it is the nation's first offshore wind farm. Now I seem to remember previous articles that mentioned offshore wind farms on the East Coast that were panned because people considered them eyesores or that these wind farms would ruin the ocean view. Well according to the company that is going to build the farm,

"From the shore, the park will be visible only on clear winter days, and the turbines will be nearly invisible during summer months when Rehoboth Beach fills with vacationers."

The eyesore argument doesn't hold water now.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Australian, Chinese Researchers Make Breakthrough in Renewable Energy Materials

If true this would be great for the PV industry. Not only that but this as well:

"Titania nano-crystals are promising materials for cost-effective solar cells, hydrogen production from splitting water, and solar decontamination of pollutants."

Cool eh? Still 5-10 years off, but that's really just a blink of an eye.

Energy Bills, Boulder Flavor Going Solar

This article is a little old, but gives a nice overview of the bills that Governor Ritter signed into law recently to help create a smart and sound energy policy for Colorado. A shout out to the Colorado legislature for pushing these bills though.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Cranberry By-products Could Be Used in Biofuel, Experts Say

Interesting article on the potential use of all the stuff that is left over after the juice is squeezed out of the cranberry. All the cellulosic by-products: stems, skins, leaves could be turned into fuel (the Italians would turn it into grappa, which is like rocket fuel). What if all of our organic waste could be turned into fuel to power our machines? Heck what it all of our waste could somehow be converted into a cleaner fuel that oil? A man can dream can't he.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Biofuel: A Tankful of Weed Juice

I love that title, "weed juice." It was in reference to biofuels made from weeds and agricultural farm waste as opposed to making it from food. Just last weekend I picked about a billion (yes a billion) weeds from my yard. I placed them in numerous trash bags and then left them for the garbage man to take it away and place it in our burgeoning landfills. How nice would it have been if those weeds could be picked up, by an outfit and then converted to a biofuel for my car. Definitely.

This article discusses the second-generation biofuels (not made from human food sources), which labs around the world are working on right now.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Solar Energy Firm Plans Colorado Growth

More good news for Colorado. REC Solar, Inc. is adding more jobs in its Westminster office. Keep 'em coming!

Google, Chevron Build Mirrors in Desert to Beat Coal With Solar

More positive love for solar thermal (or CSP) plants in the Mojave Desert. This is probably my favorite line:

"Google, Inc., Chevron Corp. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. are betting this energy will become cheaper than coal."

"Cheaper than coal." That certainly is the goal.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

BrightSource's Novel Solar Thermal Power Concept for California Heats Up

I think it's time to make concentrated solar power (CSP) a household word. I really do believe that this technology will help us dramatically reduce our need coal-fired electricity plants. Now you'd still have to pay a utility for your electricity needs from this renewable source, but if you get an energy audit to see where your property currently stands with respect to energy consumption, and then add some solar panels, a solar hot water heater, solar air heater, and great insulation, you can radically drop the amount of money paid to the utility. CSP plants are going to do wonders for the United States' electricity consumption.

Speaking of CSP plants (sorry for my little rant above) it looks as though a company out of California wants to build a 900 megawatt CSP plant. And this company has a new method of making the solar thermal process more efficient. Apparently the founder (Arnold Goldman) of this company (BrightSource) was the first to pioneer CSP plants in the 1980s, but the low cost of oil put him out of business. Anyway, check out the article on Mr. Goldman's new CSP method here.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Google Pours Massive Investment into Renewable Energy Research

Google is investing $20 million in the next year on renewable energy research. Looks like they are going to hire some staff and get down to business to try and figure out how to offset their vast electricity consumption (data centers are electricity hogs). Now that's smart business, but also an inspiration to us all. As individuals we need to try and make it work so that all of our households can offset energy consumption with renewable energy. Let's keep an eye on Google in the next year or or so to see how they progress.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Solar Panel Subsidies Not Smart, Says German MP

Interesting perspective on solar subsidies from Germany's MP, Hans Josef Fell. And Germany should know; 14% of their energy production is from renewable energy (compared to about 7% in the United States. So the main gist of the MP's arguement is that subsidizing solar panels themselves prevents the solar power market from having any sort of reliability or longevity. In other words, the MP says, instead of giving rebates to consumers for solar panels pay the consumer a high price for the excess energy sold back to the grid. Never thought about it that way. That's worth exploring with respect to U.S. policy.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

International Agency Urges the Start of an ‘Energy Revolution’

Nobuo Tanaka, executive director of the International Energy Agency, says it's time to get busy with investment in new forms of energy due to energy shortages and growing greenhouse gas emissions. He says about $45 trillion would do it and that we need to start right away. So, how 'bout it people of planet Earth?

Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Biggest Economic Opportunity of This Century

For all of you investment junkies out there, an article from the Motley Fool on how to best invest in "cleantech" industries, i.e., renewable energy industries. I like the "cleantech" phrase. It is the sort of phrase that is marketable, catchy, straightforward, approachable, and last but not least, tangible. By now the phrase, "renewable energy" is familiar to me and to people familiar with the industry, but perhaps a lot of people out there find the term "renewable" difficult to wrap their minds around. Do people really care that energy generation is renewable? Or do they just care that it is some clean technology? Would people (when hearing the particular phrase) be more likely to invest in the cleantech industry or in the renewable energy industry? I'd like to see a focus group on the phrases "cleantech" versus "renewable energy."

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

California Car Company Will Produce 300 MPG; Detroit Just Now Waking Up from Long Nap

Two posts down below I mentioned a U.K. automobile company that could get about 100 mpg. But I just saw this California company named "Aptera" on NBC Nightly News. The news report claimed that the Aptera car could get about 300 miles per gallon! Plus production starts in late 2008. The car will only be sold in California, so you'll have to travel to pick it up (unless you live in The Golden State), but it'll get three...hundred...miles...per...gallon. You could get across the U.S. on one tank/charge. I'm saving my shekels as we speak. Rock and roll.

And it looks like we aren't going to see any leadership from the myopic Detroit folks. The headline on Yahoo today: "GM to Close 4 Plants, Focus on Small Cars." They sure do have a hard time seeing the writing on the wall don't they? And it's usually at the expense of American jobs. Sigh.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Solar Lily Pads Gently Floating And Gathering Energy on the River Clyde

For some reason the artist's rendition of solar lily pads (see right, picture credit to ZM Architecture) feels like something right off a sci-fi novel book jacket. You know what I mean? I like ZM Architecture's concept of what is essentially a solar panel floating stationary on a river. I hope Scotland goes for it and I hope it catches on elsewhere. Cherry Creek Reservoir anyone?

Axon Automotive's Goal: Most Fuel Efficient Car in Europe

I stumbled upon this recently formed car company in the U.K., Axon Automotive. With carbon fiber technology their goal is to have the most fuel efficient, affordable, and safe automobile in Europe. Can you say 100 miles per gallon! Yes you read that right. They're still a young company, so anything could happen. But I can't wait for 2010. Maybe an American auto company could partner with these folks?

Friday, May 30, 2008

Renewable OPEC: Careful What You Wish For

Not that I'm concerned that Europe is on the right track with respect to producing a majority (if not all) of their energy needs in the future with renewable energy (RE), but this opinion piece from the Wall Street Journal brings up an interesting conundrum. I've heard before (and even blogged about it) that African deserts can provide more than enough solar energy to provide Europe with their electricity needs. When I first heard this, my altruistic (albeit naive) nature immediately leaped to the conclusion that any nation that had better means to produce various forms of RE would provide that energy to other nations at a lower cost, rather than allowing market forces to take over and adjust the price. Silly, silly me. I forgot to put into the equation the world's warm and fuzzy embrace of capitalism.

So, the conundrum is that Europe can only produce so much of their energy consumption with RE. If Europe wants to stay true to their carbon reduction commitments, then they will have to purchase the rest of their energy needs from "renewable energy" producing nations such as Algeria (mentioned in the op-ed); nations that have the best means to produce solar generated power. It also brings to mind that the transmission of this "desert solar power" will have to tie into Europe's electricity grid. That means that Europe would hypothetically be at the mercy of a cartel of RE producing nations (like the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, i.e. OPEC, is with petroleum consuming nations today). In other words, these RE producing nations, like OPEC today, could hold Europe's collective energy fate in their hands (in the form of price fluctuations and even transmission "issues"). I'm not suggesting that future renewable energy producing nations would hold Europe hostage, but I am saying that the ability for all nations to be completely self-sufficient with respect to their energy production and consumption would be difficult if production is concentrated in the hands of a few nations, like what happens under OPEC. As an example today, if OPEC sneezes then the world's oil markets shiver. If anything the idea of a "Renewable OPEC," in light of what happens with the petroleum OPEC, certainly brings up some interesting, eerily familiar geopolitical ramifications for the future of RE production and consumption.

Wishful Thinking

*Before adding PV, wind, or solar thermal to your residential or commercial structure, the first step is to analyze this structure's energy consumption through a professional energy audit. I'd like to see some public education on the importance of an energy audit for any structure. Remember Smokey the Bear's forest fire shtick drilled into our heads over the last few decades? How about something like, "Henry the House" desperately wanting to know how much energy he consumes and wastes throughout the day?

*With over 300 sunny days a year on the Front Range is it too much to ask for solar PV and thermal modules on every residential and commercial unit (after an energy audit of course)?

*How about affordable plug-in electric cars that go more than 100 miles on a charge with PV and wind powered recharging stations?

*Dreaming of companies large and small adopting business sustainability practices to maximize profits, reduce their carbon footprint, and enhance the lives of their employees and the communities that surround them.


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