Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Turning Blue Collars Green

I like it, "green collar jobs". Great article on the transition of folks from the dying blue collar industries to the renewable energy industry fueled by smart legislation and entrepreneurs. California once again leads the way.

Letter: Wind Energy Doesn't Need Fresh Water to Cool It

This is just a letter to the editor in the New York Times, but highlights an interesting point that is often overlooked - the enormous amounts of water used in cooling an electricity generating coal plant and to a larger extent a nuclear power plant.

The letter was written by the Director of Communications at the American Wind Energy Association and this line caught my eye:

"Most Americans are unaware that electricity generation requires more water than any other activity, including even agriculture."

Just something to think about when we build more electricity plants to meet demand.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Brazil President Defends Biofuels

Well, the Brazilian president has a tough sell. The reason he's defending biofuels is because most of his country's economy depends on biofuels. I wouldn't want to be in his shoes.

Against the Grain: Ethanol Stocks Sputter

A couple of adages come to mind like, "follow the money" and "stick a fork in it"? I'm not ready to call it and I know that in an earlier post I said that I was going to lay off the biofuel's postings, but this one from the LA Times caught my eye. So if people don't come to their senses, the market will force them. Bottom line - let's stopping using food to produce fuel for our cars and trucks and let's start using inedible bio sources for fuel (like, wood, switchgrass, algae, etc).

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Q&A: Will Wind Power Make the Grid Less Reliable?

Via Renewable Energy World we have a simple question by a reader with a thorough and intelligent answer. Check it out.

Renewable Energy Facts

Interesting article on some raw facts about renewable energy. Various renewable energy solutions are growing (which is great), however I don't believe it's growing fast enough. What's my endgame? Getting off oil and coal-burning power plants.

Powering Country Property with the Sun Now Makes More Sense Than Ever

Aaahhh it would be nice to have 20 acres in the country, miles away from the city. But what if the utility company wants $125,000 (gulp) to put your house on the grid? No worries, there are many solar solutions to be had!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Winds of Change are Blowing in the Suburbs

Good article on the waning battle in the Chicago suburbs between the common sense segment of society and those that still wish to keep their head in the sand. The common sense segment appears to be winning, although it will take some more time. With respect to wind mills, the ostrich faction can only come up with tired excuses such as "noisy", "eyesore", "safety risk", and "will kill the birds". Hopefully, those excuses will be put to rest sooner rather than later.

Wind Broker Clean and Green Goes Belly Up

Something smells kind of fishy with this ex-business in Boulder, Colorado.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Solar Panels on Warehouse Rooftops - Genius!

A friend slipped this press release to me today. ProLogis, "the world's largest owner, manager and developer of distribution facilities" is allowing the Southern California Edison utility company rooftop space to house photovoltaic (PV) panels. Not just a building here or there, but the initial phase will provide 607,000 square feet of rooftop space. After the project is all said and done the utility customers will have 250 megawatts of electricity being generated by these PV panels. Kudos to ProLogis for using that empty rooftop space to perpetuate a renewable energy source. Now I wonder if ProLogis has any warehouses in Colorado and if Xcel Energy would be willing to embark upon a similar agreement?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

"Heat Is Much Easier to Store than Electricity": Dreaming of a Low-carbon Economy

You must read this article if it's the only thing you do this year! It gives the reader a little bit of everything (science, history, economics, politics, etc.) with respect to solar electric thermal or concentrated solar power (CSP). I've written about this with respect to Abengoa Solar's CSP plant in the Arizona desert, here and here. Basically, there are a bunch of mirrors in a sunny place concentrating the solar rays on a tube of liquid. This liquid boils, turns into steam, and then rotates a turbine, which produces an electric current. Pretty simple eh?

From the article, one line in particular caught my eye:

"Heat is much easier to store than electricity, a fact that gives CSP a crucial -- maybe the crucial -- advantage over wind and solar photovoltaics."

That is critical. In order to take advantage of the electricity from wind and photovoltaics at night we would have to store it in batteries, which is expensive. Storing the heat generated from the CSP plant is easier and cheaper to do than storing electricity.

So whadda ya' says folks? Concentrated solar power plants all over the southwest? It'll be cheaper and quicker than building a nuclear plant. It's a no-brainer to me.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Local Farms — Healthy Kids a Hearty Investment

Along with the localization of our energy supply that I've talked about before, I think that an equal if not greater pressing need is the localization of our food supply. We all enjoy out of season fruit or vegetables or meat from around the world (Argentina, South Africa, Spain, China, etc.) but perhaps we have been lulled into thinking that these abundant, out-of-season choices are a good thing or a convenience of the modern world. Sure we have a cornucopia of choices at the grocery store, but how much energy did it take to transport those fruits and vegetables halfway across the world? In addition, how do those countries treat (pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers) their food while it is growing? Add another layer or frozen food on top of that and we have a disturbing trend - we really don't know what happens to the food that we put into our bodies from seed to supermarket.

Now we're all adults and we can make conscious decisions about what types of food we put in our bodies. But what of the kids who eat food at the schools around the nation? What are our schools putting into the growing bodies of our children? What types of health issues do we have today because of the food that we have put into our bodies and what health issues will our children have in the future?

Alright, enough of the soapbox and check out what the Washington state legislature is doing for their kids' food in public schools and for their local farmers via The Seattle Times.

Oh, I should probably change this blog to be about not only renewable energy but also acquiring food from local sources. Because in a way they are connected.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Ten More Years Until Solar Booms

A little technical but this article gives the reality of attaining our energy needs from the sun, whether it be through photovoltaics or solar fuel cells that produce hydrogen. Harry Gray of the California Institute of Technology, while speaking at the national meeting of the American Chemical Society, said that the sun can provide all of the electricity and fuel to power the planet. That is excellent news, but he, like the president of MIT in an earlier post, says that we need to put our collective scientific heads together and figure out how to make the renewable energy production methods cheaper and more efficient at transferring the sun's rays into energy we can use. These things have to occur in order to have the "solar boom" across the planet occur in about ten years. Once again, it's up to us to get this ball rolling. What do you say we start today?

Douglas County Unveils School Cooled by Ice, Lit by Sun

Wow. I wish there were schools like these when I was a kid. Solar tubes bringing in natural light, sensors that turn off unused lights, and ice as a cooling unit for the hot days. And all of these modifications will pay for themselves in just seven years. Check out the article via 9News.com.

Friday, April 11, 2008

SoL Energy Shines Light in Carbondale

The Aspen Times reports about SoL Energy installing a solar array on a town's rec center on the western slope of Colorado. What's interesting about this is that the town didn't spend a dime on the array. You want to find out how? Read more about it.

MIT's Burgeoning Role in the Green Movement

Some sage advice from the President of MIT. She says we need another "Apollo project" to light a fire under this country's collective arse to help us to quickly discover the new technologies needed to be energy independent. I've only read about the "race to the moon", which seemed to really excite the imagination of children and even adults back in the 1960s. I wonder if we could do the same thing with respect to energy. I do believe that it will take a visionary leader to excite the public once again. Here's to hoping that this year's presidential election provides us with that leader.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Democratic Convention Sparks Solar-power Opportunities

The Democratic National Convention is going to be exciting this year in Denver. Lots of renewable energy technologies to be used to offset some of the power consumption at some of the venues. Read more about it here.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Envisioning the House of the Future

Great article on Tufts University's task to create a house of the future for the 2009 Solar Decathlon. This decathlon is a competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Renewable Energy Lab. Tufts University is not only working on a "green" home for the decathlon, but also has tasked themselves with making it affordable. To give you some perspective, for the 2007 Solar Decathlon a German university spent over $1.2 million on an 800 sq. ft. "green" home. Who can afford that? Some of the design techniques that they are going to utilize are biomimicry, cradle to cradle, and passive solar. All of the "green" homes created will be displayed on the Washington Mall in 2009.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Oil Firms No Longer Need Tax Breaks, but Renewable Energy Does

An editorial from the Orlando Sentinel states the obvious: renewable energy, a budding industry, now needs tax breaks to jump start it. The oil industry, an established industry and which brings home gigantic profits for their shareholders, do not need tax breaks any longer. Therefore, take some of the tax breaks away from the oil industry to help the renewable energy industry get off the ground. It really is that simple. I'll let some of the editorial highlight some of the nitty gritty:

"But with oil company profits and the price of crude at all-time highs, a strong case also can be made to rescind tax breaks for the industry to finance the extension on breaks for renewable energy. That's what the House did in February, voting to take back $18 billion in tax breaks over a decade, or $1.8 billion a year, from the five largest publicly traded oil companies. The annual figure is less than 2 percent of the $123 billion in profits that those companies banked last year."


Sunday, April 6, 2008

Senators Propose Extending Renewable Energy Tax Credit

This is good news, even though the tax credit for consumers is only extended for another year. The big hurdle will be defining how these tax credits are going to be paid for. Will the Senators gain a spine and take away just a little bit of oil industry tax breaks? Or will they cave and put the U.S. clean energy industry even more behind the eight-ball?

Minnesota Now No. 3 in Wind Energy Production

Go Minnesota! They just beat out Iowa for more wind energy production. Now I know this isn't a competition, the more energy created by a windmill is a good thing. But where is Colorado! Well I checked the American Wind Energy Association's web site Colorado is number six in the country for wind energy production. Beware Minnesota, we may just catch up to you by the end of 2008!

Just a Thought on Biofuels

I haven't posted much about biofuels lately. Reason being is that the articles I've come across are about 75% negative on biofuels. Perhaps the consensus is growing that biofuels aren't all they're cracked up to be - the magic bullet to wean us off the black gold, Texas tea. I too have commented before that I am not a fan of creating fuel from human food sources or using fertile land to grow non-food for fuel. But I do believe that this biofuel discord is a healthy thing and that we will find a way to make it work.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

It's Time to Get Serious About Solar Energy

At least that's what Bill Boyne says in his opinion piece in the Post-Bulletin, and I tend to agree with him. He also mentions that we could stand to use more solar thermal plants in the southwest.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Clear Skies Solar Opens Golden, Colorado Office

Add yet another renewable energy business to Colorado. The press release says that Clear Skies Solar will need about four people to staff their new office in Golden. Read the press release here.

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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