Monday, March 31, 2008

Colorado Lawmakers Look to Place Cap on Solar Panel Fees

More information on the Colorado legislature attempting to cap solar panel permit fees. Looks like the Colorado House and Senate are meeting this week (Tuesday) to hammer out their differences. Keep your fingers crossed.

Senator Salazar's Energy Summit: Leading Colorado Towards a Clean Energy Future

Via Trading Markets we have a nice overview of Senator Ken Salazar's 3rd Annual Energy Summit. Lots of detail on why Colorado can and should be the renewable energy capital of the world. Check it out.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Nevada Power Co. Will Invest in a 30-megawatt Geothermal Plant

This is great news for Nevada. Geothermal power is known for its reliability (unlike solar systems and wind turbines which aren't generating power 24/7). I also wonder if Nevada could offset most or even all of their energy needs with renewable energy. They have the wide open space to put gigantic mega-solar concentrators, wind turbines, and geothermal. Plus they are already receiving some hydroelectric power from Hoover Dam. I'm probably vastly underestimating their power consumption (think Las Vegas) but it's worth a try. The less that we can depend on coal-burning electricity plants and the more we can rely on the sun, wind, water, and heat from the Earth to supply our energy needs the better.

Bella Energy Installs Solar System on Automotive Garage in Boulder, Colorado

A salute to Elan Motorsports in Boulder, Colorado for having Bella Energy install a 10 kilowatt system on the roof. Check out the press release for more info.

Solar Panels to Blanket Southern California's Commercial Roofs

Oh this is a dream of mine for Colorado. All of that unused space on top of our commercial buildings could be used to place solar panels on. We could reduce our fossil fuel consumption one commercial rooftop at a time. I wonder what Governor Ritter thinks of California's plan.

Energy Company Blows into Colorado

More info from the Denver Post about RES-America moving their headquarters from Austin to Broomfield, Colorado. This company is responsible for the Cedar Point Wind Project, a wind farm in Elbert and Lincoln counties to be completed in 2010.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Governor Ritter Signs House Bill 1190

I just heard a blip on the radio today and I can't find a full article on it yet, but this little blurb from the Denver Post gives a bit of info:

Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter signed House Bill 1190, which allows customers of rural electric cooperatives and municipal utilities to get credit for the wind and solar power they generate at home.

So for example if you have some PV panels or wind mills and you generate more power than you use, then you will get some money for that excess energy put back into the grid. Cool.

Multimillion-dollar Renewable Energy Company Coming to Colorado

Excellent news. Renewable Energy Systems Americas, Inc. is moving their headquarters from Austin, Texas to Broomfield, Colorado bringing with it about 140 jobs. Read more about it here.

Majoring in Renewable Energy

As I stated in this post, I really wish one of Denver's colleges would create a renewable energy program for students. I think that if Colorado wants to be a renewable energy powerhouse then there needs to be accredited programs that people can study. In my opinion, the local workforce needs to be educated and retrained in the ways of renewable energy via local colleges if we want to be able to provide the thought leadership on renewables.

Just a short while ago I took Ken Thames' Intro to PV class and then the hands-on class where we physically installed PV panels on a roof, wired them up and then ran a small workshop appliance. It was educational and it was really cool to see my hard work produce electricity right before my eyes.

So, as you can tell, I really am interested in furthering my knowledge of renewable energies via a classroom setting and this article in The New York Times only whets my appetite more. Anybody have any ideas how we can get local Colorado schools to create a renewable energy program? Leave 'em in the comments section.

Hazardous Waste Site May House Solar Energy Farm

Ingenious! Instead of putting people on hazardous waste sites or Superfund sites after clean-up (are they ever really clean?) put in a renewable energy farm. What a great idea. A nugget from the article:

“We’ve got a piece of property that is a wasteland,” he said. With the Allco agreement, the property will now generate revenue for the town.

It's as simple as that. Deriving revenue from a dead zone.

Money Troubles Stall Green Town Project

I really do admire the courage and ambition of this little town in Indiana, trying to be the first community to meet all electricity and gas needs through renewable energy. They aren't moving as quickly as they would like and funding is subsiding a bit, but I still believe they can do it. Why not? So if you have any ideas that could help them realize their dream faster, drop Reynolds, Indiana a line. Thanks!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Lighting the Way in Fort Collins, Colorado

Good article on some of the things homeowners in Fort Collins, Colorado are doing to offset their energy consumption with solar power. These good folk make it seem easy to go renewable!

Call for Delay to Biofuels Policy in the U.K.

It seems like more and more nations are starting to urge caution with biofuel policy. The U.K. chief environmental scientist is the latest, siting sustainability and impact on food prices as reasons. Read the article via the BBC.

Newsflash: Colorado Rep. Votes Against Renewable Energy Tax Credits

Not surprising at all, Representative Marilyn Musgrave voted against Colorado's best interest. The "partisan efforts" that her spokesperson claims in this article is an excuse that is tired and worn. This bogus "partisan" claim is used to muddy the concept of the original bill that was voted on. What is wrong with taking away some of the oil and gas industry tax credits to pay for renewable energy tax credits? Renewable energy that is generated by the individual farmer, doctor, mechanic, construction worker, whatever, is a positive concept for Coloradoans. It's as simple as that. If you believe that taking away this oil and gas tax credit will cause our energy rates to go up then you might want to check yourself. Generating some of your own energy, if not all of it, will reduce the bill that you receive from the utility company. Why? Because you won't be using as much of the utility generated power. Allowing the individual Colorado citizen to generate some of his or her own energy is an empowering concept that the oil and gas industry and apparently Marilyn Musgrave do not want you to have.

Do what's right for the individuals that you represent Rep. Musgrave and empower them with the ability to create some of their own energy needs, while also helping to spur a renewable energy economy in Colorado. And while you are at it do away with the doublespeak and the hollow arguments.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Will Colorado Be Able to Meet Their Energy Demands?

An opinion piece from the Rocky Mountain News on how Colorado can meet their energy needs via renewable energy methods. Folks it's time to get started putting solar panels on every roof in Colorado, wind power where applicable, and solar water heaters. Here are a few ideas on how we get there.

Solar Water Heating Can Save You Money

Good article on the incredible benefits of heating your water via solar water heating before it goes in the hot water tank. According to the article the average home spends about 25% of its energy costs on heating water. Wow.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Colorado State University Launches Renewable Energy 'Supercluster'

This is great news. Colorado State University is launching another one of their 'superclusters' for clean energy technologies. This will help to speed up these technologies from the research phase to consumer's hands. Another step closer to Colorado becoming a renewable energy capital.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Price of War: Developing Renewable Energy May Be Cheaper


Israel's Eco Energy Looks to Seaweed as a Super-green Biofuel

Awesome. We need more of this. I'm sorry but as I read more about biofuels I just can't get on board with a transportation fuel that's made from a human food source, when there are millions of people in the world starving or going hungry each night. So a biofuel from seaweed or algae sounds like the right way to go.

India Can Lead World in Renewable Energy

I agree with Al Gore on this one. India has a large brain trust of tech savvy folks. Let's face it, India's standard of living is rising exponentially. A direct correlation to that increase in standard of living is energy consumption. With the right thought leadership and policy they could supply a lot of their energy needs with renewable sources.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Pepsi Center Going 100 Percent Green

We're gearing up for the Democratic National Convention with a green initiative at the Pepsi Center here in Denver. Solar panels, recycling and hybrid-only parking. Good work Mr. Kroenke.

Area Residents to Hold Renewable Energy Rally on St. Patrick's Day

Cool. Wish I could go to Reno, Nevada for this:

People at the rally will be joining U.S. Sen. Harry Reid's effort to stop three coal plants proposed for Ely and Mesquite.

Reno residents plan to bring pictures of renewables including geothermal, wind and solar and place them in a "pot of gold" as a symbol of the future these technologies promise for jobs and economic growth.

Department of Energy Shines $14 Million on Solar Energy Projects

Anything to bring those PV prices down. Keep it coming Department of Energy.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

GE, Vestas Tap Record Wind Orders as Subsidy Stalls reports that there are record orders for wind-turbines from utility companies forced by state legislatures to offset a percentage of their energy generation with renewable sources. However, as we've discussed, federal renewable energy subsidies may dry up at the end of 2008 which will put more pressure on utilities to raise rates. The article states that, current federal tax credits allows a company (like Xcel energy) to deduct 2 cents for each kilowatt-hour generated. That's a big chunk, considering that the current rate is about 11 cents a kilowatt hour.

Call members of Congress and let them know that the renewable energy production tax credit needs to be extended this year. We need a consistent energy policy to help stabilize the renewable energy market.

Senator Salazar: Ensuring Tax Certainty in Clean-energy Economy

Kudos to Senator Ken Salazar for recognizing the importance of extending the renewable energy tax credits (set to expire at the end of 2008) ASAP. Read his clear and insightful op-ed in The Hill here.

ACC's Renewable Energy Program Gets Glowing Reviews

Nice! Austin Community College has a 2-year renewable energy program. Read more about it via the Austin American-Statesmen. Maybe one of the Denver metro area's community colleges can get a program going.

Polysilicon Bonanza: Rising Supplies, Sinking Prices

The Wall Street Journal blog says that polysilicon production is going to get more prevalent and therefore cheaper. This is good news to get the price of PV panels down to a reasonable amount (I'd like to see a buck a watt).

UN Rights Expert: Biofuels Violate Human Rights

Looks like the debate is beginning to brew. I brought it up in this post, A Non-Original Thought. Now Jean Ziegler, a UN rights expert, has said it in a speech. Via Swiss Info we have this:

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food says the production of biofuels violates basic human rights.

Switzerland's Jean Ziegler said more than 850 million people across the world were suffering from hunger and malnutrition – 12 million more than a year ago.

So in all good conscience with 850 million human beings suffering from hunger and malnutrition, can we honestly derive ethanol fuel from a human food substance such as corn? Or should we work instead on converting biomass or switch grass to fuel. But this even calls into question the fertile land that will be necessary to grow large volumes of switch grass. It's a tricky problem and my conscience is with Mr. Ziegler.

Bacteria Discovery Leads to Paper Biofuels

Via the Greenbang blog we have this,

"A bacterium found eating marsh grass in the Chesapeake Bay has turned out to be just the ticket for creating enzymes which break down almost any source of biomass, or plant life, into sugars for ethanol and other biofuels.

"Now, using that bacteria, Zymetis has inked a deal with Fiberight, a company that processes cellulosic waste products like non-recycled paper to set up a waste to ethanol venture."


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Dark Side of PV Production

Demand for solar panels is projected to go up. China has already recognized the increasing global demand and has opened several new PV plants at a breakneck pace. The result is that we are going to have a ton of cheap PV panels, but at what cost? The toxic byproducts from the polysilicon (the stuff eventually destined for PV panels) production are being dumped in Chinese rivers and right on the ground close by to schools and villages. The toxin breaks down into hydrochloric acid and chlorine in the soil. If you are a farmer around that plant the soil is essentially dead. Our demand for cheaper and cheaper PV panels will create yet another bio-hazard for the Chinese.

Now there are two sides to this coin. First the Chinese government desires short term profits at the expense of their people, but the importers (the rest of the world) are also responsible for holding the Chinese to the same environmental standards as we hold ourselves. Hopefully this Washington Post article will get your brain juices flowing.

One question I have is how to treat this toxic byproduct so that it is no longer harmful. There has to be a way to neuter this toxin and then recycle the remaining elements somehow. Maybe you folks know?

A Non-Original Thought

Actually this isn't an original thought as I've seen it mentioned from time to time, but why are we using food that could be used to feed people to fill our gas tanks? It is sort of twisted if you think about it. We are so oil hungry in this country that we think it's alright to turn a human food substance like corn into fuel for our cars. Is this immoral when folks even in this wealthy country are starving. I don't know, you tell me.

Reminder: Solar Energy Tax Credits Expire at the End of 2008

We all know how fast time goes, so if you are planning to install some solar panels on your roof, you best do it before the end of 2008. Or you can get on the horn and convince members of Congress to renew the tax credit. These tax credits make it completely affordable to offset some of your energy consumption. With the economy heading south, it will become more difficult for people to do the right thing and add solar panels to their home. So it is hyper-important that we contact our respective members of Congress and ask them to extend the solar energy tax credit. Read some more about it here.

Large Scale Renewable Generation Causes Distribution Gridlock

Well this is something I hadn't thought of. Looks like parts of New Hampshire are going gang-busters on renewable energy generating plants. Good work. However, 400 megawatts here, 350 megawatt plants there using solar, wind and waste wood and before you know it you are generating more power than your power infrastructure can handle. So, one more thing to think about when planning for increased energy consumption. Now there is one way around this dilemma - localized and individual power production, instead of spending $200 million (and who's going to pay for it?) to put up larger power lines. In addition, to the "thinking local" mantra, energy audits could be done and education could be provided on how to reduce energy consumption in the home.

Monday, March 10, 2008

NREL Leads America's Energy Revolution

Ahhhhhhh, science. One of the hidden jewels of Colorado is the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). They've been plugging away since 1977 exploring the technologies we take for granted today. What are the technologies of tomorrow? Check out this opinion post via the Denver Post.

Colorado Bill: People Allowed to Sell Energy Back at Fair Rate

Good news for the people of Colorado; they will soon be paid a fair rate by the utility for their excess power generated by renewable methods. The House bill was sent to Governor Ritter's desk. Does anybody see any cons with this approach? Read the article at the Rocky Mountain News.

The Main Cons of Biofuels

A clear and informative article on biofuels and a subtle call to slow things down a bit. I hope that I haven't seem too down on biofuels lately (looking through the older posts they all seem to be negative). I think that all of the mainly skeptical scientific studies and press coming out are the counterbalance to what was a pie in the sky attitude and subsequent explosion of biofuels in the market. I remember it to be like a policy makers gold rush - everyone dropping all common sense and measure and heading for the hills to pan gold. Perhaps there is a romantic wild west notion to panning for gold, but we shouldn't apply that to a potential energy source. Like the article from the Times Online says, not all biofuels are bad, and they tend to be good on a smaller scale. I vote for more study.

Oldest Bicycle Manufacturer Goes Solar

Cool. If the oldest U.S. bicycle manufacturer with a 50 person staff can do this in Queens, NY then certainly Colorado businesses can too. Worksman Cycles claim that it will offset about 20% of their electricity bill, which according to the press release will also, "protect Worksman against future rate increases and lessen the burden on New York's electricity grid."

Friday, March 7, 2008

Bush: US Must 'Get Off Oil'

Oh the irony. No comment from this blogger, except for a big roll of the eyeballs and actions speak louder than words. Here's the article.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Congrats to CU on Biofuels Grant

The University of Colorado scores some major coin to study biofuels. Hopefully those brainiacs up there will be able to come up with a clean, economical, low-carbon biofuel. More at the Rocky Mountain News.

Wind Turbine Plant Opens Up in Northern Colorado

Vestas is opening a wind turbine factory in Windsor, Colorado. That's very good news. On top of that, the article says that over 600 people will be employed at the plant. You can read the full article via 9News.

California Cows to Supply Renewable Gas Energy

Holy cow, we need one of these up in Greeley, Colorado. Whenever the wind blows from up north Denver smells like that fresh country air you all know so well. There has to be a ton of the stuff up there. Read more about it here via the San Francisco Chronicle.

Solar Project Breaks Ground at DIA

Phenomenal! That solar project we talked about here, well they've finally broken ground and will have 10,000 solar panels visible from Pena Boulevard. Oh yeah, they say it will be completed by the time the Democratic National Convention starts. That will be excellent advertising for all the folks coming into Denver International Airport and driving into town via Pena Boulevard for the convention. Nice. Here's more info via the Rocky Mountain News.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

NY Times: The Senate Shills for Big Oil

Via The New York Times we have an editorial that calls a spade a spade. Republicans in the Senate are whining about the House-approved, gradual elimination of tax credits for big oil to help pay for renewable energy tax credits. With oil profits beyond comprehension and oil over a $100 a barrel we've got to take some of that bounty away from the oil companies. Just a wee bit. Right?

Interesting Interview with Energy Industry Veteran

Here's my favorite quote from the interview from S. David Freeman, "Big solar and wind backed up by natural gas is a safer, cheaper alternative for society." Word.

And if you read some of the comments below the interview there is a lively discussion about nuclear power. For the nuclear supporters out there I have two questions: 1) Would you allow them to build a plant in your backyard? and 2) Nuclear plants take a lot of fresh water to cool them. What happens when a drought plagues the area where a nuclear power plant is located?

I am not opposed to nuclear but so far for myself, the cons outweigh the pros.

US: Take Your Time on Biofuels

With all of the studies and the subsequent articles questioning the efficacy of biofuels popping up in the last couple of months, I have to agree with this op-ed from The Mercury News, "U.S. Must Move Carefully on Biofuels Policy". Let's take our time (which ironically we may not have) instead of knee-jerk political reactions. I am all for reducing our consumption of oil, but if we create a bigger problem than we currently have.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Mega Solar Power Concentrators Could Supply World's Energy Supply

Yeah you read that right.

"According to pro-TREC (Trans-Mediterranean Tenewable Energy Cooperation) sources, an area of 254 kilometers x 254 kilometers of hot desert, if covered with concentrating solar power plants, would provide electricity equivalent to the current annual electricity consumption of the whole world."

EcoWorld decided to crunch the numbers on this grand claim and they figured that TREC's numbers are about right. Wow. Let's put one of these puppies in Nevada (is it a "hot desert"?) to supply the US with all of the power we need. There's about 64,000 square kilometers out there right?

Solar Energy Big Bucks in 2012

Via The Earth Times we have a press release that says the solar energy industry will be a 12 billion bucks business by 2012. Fire up kids, solar energy is becoming a giant.

Biofuels Are Beginning to Get a Bad Rap

Biofuels may not be all they are cracked up to be. This meme is starting to permeate the major media as more science comes out. In addition to science we also have economics. The price of food is going up because farmers want to cash in on the ethanol crop, not to mention the price of beer. It is interesting to say the least. My opinion is that we jumped on this biofuel band wagon with too much haste. Now we are paying the price.

More on Solar Thermal Power

MIT's Technology Review, "Solar Without the Panels", discusses generating electricity from the sun without photovoltaics. It also speaks to the recently announced solar plant project in Arizona by Abengoa Solar. This is interesting technology and is worth checking out.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

The Sun is Shining on Colorado, Thanks to Gov. Ritter

A nice article that goes into a little more detail on the ConocoPhillips' recently announced renewable energy research hub in Louisville, Colorado and how Governor Ritter is leading the charge to make Colorado the renewable energy capital of the United States, if not the world. The article, "Research Hub Boosts Colorado Economy," via CNN Money covers much of the groundwork that leaders in Colorado are laying to create economic growth here in that industry.

The only problem I have with the article is that the author decided to get a dissenting opinion from Jon Caldera of the rapidly-dwindling-in-influence, Independence Institute. The goal of this "institute" is to demonize any form of government or as Grover Norquist said, "to get it (government) down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub". Now, in the article Caldera is quoted as saying this:

"As long as there's no government subsidy or corporate welfare, I think it's fantastic," said Jon Caldara, president of the Independence Institute, a conservative think tank. "Unfortunately, renewable energy is one of the largest recipients of corporate welfare. What government does for one industry it needs to do for all."

Perhaps the author did some selective editing and took Mr. Caldera's quote out of context. But as it stands above Caldera contradicts himself in just three sentences. In the first sentence he doesn't want government subsidies or corporate welfare. And then in the third sentence he implies that if there are subsidies or corporate welfare that there needs to be welfare for ALL industries. Now aside from the lunacy of subsidizing every industry the United States has, Mr. Caldera contradicts himself because he says, "What government does for one industry it needs to do for all." Perhaps Mr. Caldera was being a bit tongue-in-cheek, but whatever the case it doesn't help the dialogue. Plus channeling some taxpayer money to this developing industry will help Colorado move faster towards energy independence, create jobs, generate revenue, and help us develop energy forms that are not toxic to our increasingly stressed environment.

Oh and where did he get his statement, "renewable energy is one of the largest recipients of corporate welfare"? Sounds sufficiently vague and false to me.

I'll get off my soapbox now. Let's celebrate the fact that Governor Ritter is guiding Colorado on a path towards the future and not towards the past. Right on!

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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