Thursday, February 28, 2008

Scoping Out Some Land Near DIA for a Solar Array

Aaaahhhhhh, picture this from the opening line of a recent article, "Vast swaths of brown, barren land near Denver International Airport could soon become decorated with a dizzying array of mirrors reflecting sunlight." Isn't that just gorgeous?! Via the Rocky Mountain News we have, "Solar Mirrors Could Array Near DIA". This is more good news for Colorado.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Congrats to Rural Alaska!

Environment News Service reports that, "Wind Cooperative of the Year Award Goes to Rural Alaska". This is great news, especially this part, "The AVEC wind turbines are producing up to 25 percent of the annual electricity needs for Toksook Bay and Kasigluk." This is only going to compliment Alaska's pristine environment.

Biofuels Could Be a Bit Tricky

This editorial in the Washington Post, "The Problem with Biofuels", brings up some really good points. Biofuels may not be the magic bullet that we are looking for to get us off fossil fuels. I'm ok with that. We don't want to create larger environmental, social, and economic problems than we already have. Plus I don't want the price of beer to go up. So let's continue to study this more!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

GOP in Congress: Embrace Renewable Energy

I know this is an opinion piece, but sometimes you just have to call a spade a spade. It really is time to stop the big oil gravy train and start embracing renewable energy in a big, big way. Ideally big oil should take most of their record profits over the last year or so and invest heavily in solar, wind, and biofuels ASAP. How much more money does big oil need to make from fossil fuels? Via the Mercury News, "GOP should stop coddling Big Oil, make way for renewable energy".

Monday, February 25, 2008

Note to Congress, Please Extend Renewable Energy Tax Credits Past 2008

Via the Epoch Times we have a pro-renewable energy tax credit article, "Boom or Bust for Renewable Energy?" This week the House is set to vote on a bill that will take away tax breaks for oil companies and use the money to continue subsidizing tax breaks for the renewable energy industry. Current tax credits for renewable energies are set to expire at the end of 2008. I believe (like the boom or bust article above) that we need to continue those tax breaks if we are to sustain the growth and job creation in the renewable energy industry. It's a no brainer. Will Congress agree?

Trees Versus Sun: Just the Beginning

From the LA Times blog, "Your neighbors trees vs. your solar panels (or vice versa)". Interesting. After taking a solar installation class recently, trees are a radiance killer and really do inhibit the PV panels from generating peak energy. I know that as I look to buy a house for the first time I am aware of the tree growth in the surrounding neighbor's yards and the prospective house's yard. But what about home owners who live in some of the older Denver neighborhoods where tall trees are in abundance? And what about the initiative by Greenprint Denver to plant a million trees by 2025? Some things to think about as we try to take advantage of 300 sunny days a year.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Lucky Phoenix Gets a Little Love from Abengoa Solar

Via Solar Buzzzzzzz, Arizona Public Service Co. is going to a get a huge 280 megawatt concentrating solar power (CSP) plant outside of Phoenix. The construction of the power plant will create about 1,500 jobs and the plant will take about "85 highly-skilled technicians" to operate it. While operating at capacity it can serve about 70,000 customers.

CPS is not photovoltaic but rather concentrates the sun's heat on a heat transfer fluid which then turns to steam and turns the plant's turbines. Clean energy all of the way. I am happy for Phoenix and I sure hope Denver will get one of those.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Gigantic Oil Co. Opening Learning Center for Renewable Energy R&D

So it was finally announced that someone bought the 432-acre plot o' land in Louisville, CO. At the beginning of 2008 speculation was running rampant around these parts about who was going to buy that land from Sun Microsystems. Was it Google? Ebay? Everybody was wrong. 9News reports that ConocoPhillips bought it and wants to build a corporate learning center for research and development of renewable energy and carbon fuels recovery. Hopefully this will assist Colorado in becoming the renewable energy thought leader in the U.S.

Spanish Visitors Eye Renewable Energy in Colorado

The Denver Post reports that a delegation of about 30 Spanish renewable energy execs are coming to Colorado to check out the scene with Governor Bill Ritter. They are exploring National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) and Colorado State University. This is interesting. I know that Abengoa Solar (HQ in Seville, Spain) has about a 20 person operation right here in Lakewood, CO. One of Abengoa's specialties is in developing utility-scale concentrating solar-power plants. Wouldn't it be nice if they built a gigantic solar-power plant to help power the Front Range of Colorado? I hope Governor Ritter shows our Spanish friends a groovy time.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Solar Panels NOT Made in China

Ascent Solar Technologies of Littleton, Colorado is moving their headquarters and manufacturing plant to Thornton, Colorado. Since they are moving into a bigger plant they say they are going to need a larger workforce. More jobs! The Denver Post reports, "Solar Company on the Rise". Ascent Solar Technologies produces flexible, thin-film photovoltaics.

Energy Provider Thinks Smaller and Smarter

It's still too early to tell because all of the details haven't been submitted, but this is certainly an energy company that is thinking outside of the box in order to meet the state's renewable energy requirements and to reduce their carbon footprint. More of this, please. The Charlotte Business Journal reports via MSNBC, "Duke Energy's new plant site: your roof".

Monday, February 18, 2008

Solar Cell Mimics Photosynthesis...Sort of

Engadget says that some researchers at Penn State have created a solar cell that can extract hydrogen from water. Cool. Click here.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Wind Power to the People!

The Denver Post has an article about a small town in eastern Colorado titled, "Wind Power Bolsters Town's School Finances". This is a good example of localization. A small, windy town pulled together and funded a wind mill which takes care of their school's $80,000 a year power bill and 20% of the town's yearly power bill. Now they can spend that money saved on the kid's education. Localized power generation is smart.

Things That Make You Go Hmmmm...

Interesting article in CNN Money, "Drought Poses Serious Risk to the Power Industry". Now, one of the reasons why I haven't been sold on nuclear power is that is takes a ton of fresh water to keep those plants cool. Well, I didn't realize that our coal burning power plants need fresh water to keep cool as well. We really have to start being honest with ourselves, especially in the western United States, of what kinds of energy production make sense for our type of climate.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Sudden Outbreak Of Common Sense Infiltrates Colorado Legislature

An article (click here) from says that Colorado lawmakers are looking to cap fees for solar panels at about 300 clams. Now that is a sudden outbreak of common sense and Denver Sun Sponge salutes the Colorado legislature! Now, I wonder who that group is quoted in the article as saying that there would have to be budget cuts in some counties as a result of a capped fee? You mean to tell me that these counties depend on solar panel fees so much so that if the fee was reduced that they would have to cut some of their budget, i.e. some county programs? Again, I wonder who this "group representing counties in the state" is.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Denver: 300 Sunny Days a Year

The web site of the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation says that Denver has 300 sunny days a year, more than San Diego or Miami Beach! Sooooooo, why don't we have solar panels on every single house and business roof (unimpeded by trees of course) on the Front Range?

That's a rhetorical question of course. There are many reasons why there are aren't solar panels littering the Denver landscape. Probably the biggest reason is cost. The average U.S. household uses about 800 kilowatt hours per month. A photovoltaic (PV) system cost about anywhere from 5-7 bucks a watt. After doing the math the PV system can cost around $40,000-$50,000. Now that is a bit on the high end. There are many factors that contribute to the cost of a PV system like how much sun you get in your area and how many kilowatt hours you actually use in your household and how many you want to offset. But to put it succinctly, for the average joe or jane a PV system is cost prohibitive in the short term (long term it's a great investment). Who has 40 to 50 G's to drop in order to offset their entire household's energy needs? Don't worry, the price will be coming down.

Another reason could be home owner's associations (HOA's). I've heard from two people now that their HOA's would never let them put up solar panels because they are such an eyesore. Now, I've never personally owned a place where there was an HOA, you'll have to forgive me if I wonder aloud why someone would see clean energy as an eyesore. After a little more research I'll have a deeper discussion on this.

And one last reason that demand for PV systems is low might be because of general education. Homeowners in general really have no reason to educate themselves on PV systems because they are high in cost and I've heard that city or county inspectors don't really know how to inspect a PV system. So everybody is in the dark.

I suspect that there are more reasons. What do you think?

The 1st Post Always Runs in Circles and Makes Me Dizzy

The first post of a new blog can be, for me, rather intimidating. It's a psychological speed bump that takes a bit of effort to surmount but after a few erasures and back spaces (and a nice pint of Dale's Pale Ale) the post comes out just fine. So here we go...

The Denver Sun Sponge is what it says in the title bar up top there, but it may also be more than just commentary on renewable energies from a local and sometimes national perspective. (Of course, having too many themes, I run the risk of diluting the impact of this blog. Hopefully this thing won't get too out of control for you folks. If it does then please, dear reader, bring me back into line, in the comments section.) To further clarify the mission statement, I'll have to get a bit personal. As I get older and crazier, I am becoming more cognizant of my impact on my immediate environment. At the same time, this cognizance is also expanding to a more global perspective. For example, I am not only concerned about the energy consumption in my house or while driving my car to work, but I am beginning to become aware of where things like food, clothing, and toys are made and how they make the journey into my hands. So, an over-arching theme of localization may sprout from this blog. Think local food and energy production and then let your imagination riff on it. You can call me weird, or a dirty effin' hippie, or a communist (all terms attributed to me by various conservative minded entities over the years) but it really has nothing to do with political philosophy or economics or whether or not I wear patchouli. It has everything to do with accumulating as much knowledge as we can about ourselves and our environment and most importantly leaving this crazy and wonderful planet somehow better off than we found it. Is that really too much to ask of myself and of anybody else? Let me know! Feedback is king.

So with that, and for better or for worse, the Denver Sun Sponge begins...

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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