Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Education: Sustainable Technology Institute in Idaho Springs, Colorado

Speaking of education, there's a school up in Idaho Springs called the Sustainable Technology Institute. Their mission is, "to provide job training and encourage practices which lead to increased environmental responsibility and healthy, self sufficient lifestyles." They offer classes and training on renewable energy, as well as community workshops. Looks like a good thing to explore for all you mountain folk this side of the continental divide. Check STI out here.

SolarCity's Solar System Leasing Option Coming to Colorado

Another renewable energy company is moving to Colorado to provide a unique opportunity to acquire solar power. SolarCity Corporation will lease solar systems to residential and commercial customers across the state. If you've wanted to purchase a PV or solar thermal system but are still experiencing a little sticker shock with up front costs, leasing that system might be a more approachable option. When you lease a solar system you essentially lock-in a rate at which you pay to your utility for a certain period of time. If your utility raises its rates (which they most certainly will do), you still pay that locked-in rate from SolarCity for the life of the lease. In addition, the leases are transferable if you sell your home.

This leasing method may be a little less intimidating for somebody who longs to start harnessing that free energy from the sun, wants to reduce their carbon footprint, or wants to save a little money each month. If you're interested, check it out and help put some Colorado folks to work!

As Colleges Add Green Majors, Classes Fill Up

Excellent news in the USA Today article. There seems to be a lure to "being green" and sustainable amongst the younger generations. I'm glad it's taking hold. I wish it would take a firmer hold within my generation and my parent's generation (the "baby boomers"). I guess traditionally it takes awhile (i.e. generations) for ideas and concepts to evolve and change for the better. I just don't know how much patience good 'ole Mother Earth has.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Self-Destructing Bacteria Could Be the Key to Better Biofuels

Cool. Scientists have created bacteria that can dissolve itself from the inside out. Which makes it easier to access the "high-energy fats" and "biofuel byproducts within." Easier access to the fuel parts of the organic matter will eventually make the production of biofuels cheaper. I'm so glad that we have labs around the country devoted to discovering renewable fuels. Kudos to Arizona State University for discovering this technique.

White House to Announce $5 Billion More in Tax Credits for Renewable Energy Products

How delicious is $5 billion more for renewable energy tax credits? Just think of all the RE small businesses that will stay afloat because of these tax credits. With over 300 sunny days a year in Colorado, we need to take advantage of the sun's free energy so we can get a slice of our $5 billion! So, weatherize your home first, then invest in some RE generating technologies (like PV or solar thermal or geothermal), and help invest in small business.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Ritter Announces $1.5M in New Energy Economic Grants for Colorado

In an economy as bad as we've seen in awhile it's a positive sign that we are still willing to invest in good opportunities. The good Governor of Colorado is giving away grants for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. These grants will go to schools, small businesses, and non-profits. This money will go directly into the pockets of Coloradans. And there are projects that range from installing photovoltaic systems to developing energy efficient building codes. Keep it coming Governor Ritter!

Monday, December 14, 2009

What We Learned About Energy Efficiency and Sustainability in 2009

Interesting piece from the Shelton Group on how energy efficiency and sustainability concepts have faired this past year. I've often heard a term like "green" was overused, but from the looks of 2009 "green" is probably here to stay in 2010. One of the most interesting tidbits from the article:

"Social psychologists and neuroscientists tell us that the human brain responds more powerfully to a “Don’t waste” message than a “Save money” message. It might seem like a small tweak, but studies show that “Don’t waste” produces 2.5x times the number of responses."

Nice. I guess we aren't all about the money.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A Greener Way to Get Electricity from Natural Gas

The folks at MIT have done it again. This time they've discovered a way for natural gas burning electricity power plants to have zero carbon dioxide emissions. They also say that these natural gas power plants can be competitive economically with coal-burning power plants if a price is set on carbon dioxide emissions. The wise folks at MIT seem to be suggesting that the only way to get the United States to reduce their carbon emissions is to put a price tag on those emissions. The recent EPA decision to label carbon dioxide a pollutant is the first step towards a carbon tax of some sort.

I think that the most frustrating thing to me is that there are plenty of amazing and viable technologies to help us reduce our carbon emissions yet they are out of reach because they are "more expensive" than existing technologies. Since we are reaching the end of our rope with respect to climate change and since humans seem to be ruled by a sever case of myopia, I think that a carbon tax on emissions is a way to expedite the production of less-polluting or zero emissions technologies. Copenhagen couldn't have come at a more critical time.

What do you folks think about a tax on carbon emissions?

Precursor to Copenhagen: EPA Says Greenhouse Gases Threaten Public Health and the Environment

And so progress on climate change begins. When the world gets together this week in Copenhagen and tries to hammer out a climate change plan we have the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proclaim that greenhouse gases threaten public health, the environment AND that the high concentrations of these gases are caused by human activity. Wow. Basically the EPA is saying that greenhouse gases are pollutants and can be regulated. This is tremendous step forward and hopefully foreshadows the action the U.S. will take in Copenhagen this week. We'll be watching.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Checklist for Going Solar

I know that I'm chompin' at the bit to slap up some solar PV modules on my roof. Why not? Solar electricity is free and abundant here on the Front Range. However, I understand that it's important to be patient by making sure that my existing home doesn't waste any more energy than necessary. I'm taking steps to weatherize and insulate (I just received my Xcel rebate for weatherizing my crawl space. The work was completed by About Saving Heat.) and I will be taking advantage of the Federal government tax credits for home weatherization for 2009 and 2010. All of this preparation not only saves me money, it reduces my carbon footprint and allows me to support the local economy. Plus I want to get the best ROI on a future solar PV or solar thermal purchase.

So after you've investigated how your home uses electricity and natural gas and you've eliminated the waste (either by installing compact fluorescent/LED lights bulbs, Energy Star appliances, and insulation and caulking) you can think about installing solar thermal or PV. Where to start? Here's a good article that reveals some pointers on what you need to do before you purchase solar renewable energy. Enjoy.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Energy Department Walks the Walk with Smart Building

"Homes and office buildings consume three-quarters of U.S. electricity, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory wants to lower that figure by erecting what it believes will be the largest "net-zero" energy building in the world - one that produces as much power onsite as it uses."

Wow. Let's read that again, "home and office buildings consume three-quarters of U.S. electricity..." Three quarters! Reducing just a quarter of that through weatherization, net-zero techniques, conservation, etc., we could dramatically reduce carbon emissions from coal fired power-plants and save money. Save the planet and save money? Sounds like a win win for both left and right. And kudos to NREL for showing us how we can get there.

After you read this, look at your electricity and gas bills and think about what you can do to refrain from using that electric space heater, air conditioner, or furnace so much. Is it supporting the local economy by getting an energy audit by a trained professional and learning how your particular home home uses energy? Is it adding more insulation to the attic and receiving a federal tax credit through 2010? Whatever you decide, it will require a new way of thinking about how we can reduce our energy consumption.

Monday, October 26, 2009

German Solar Firm to Open Site in Denver

Nice. More renewable love for the front range of Colorado. A German solar converter company is investing $20 million to build its first North American manufacturing site. Is Colorado the renewable energy capital of the world? I think we are well on our way.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Denver Public Library Offers Free Device to Help Lower Energy Costs

Reason two hundred trillion billion to love pubic libraries. Denver Public Library is offering the "Watts Up" portable energy meter to help teach residents about their energy consumption, save a little money, and reduce their carbon footprint. What could be better?

The Watts Up energy meter not only tells how much electricity each appliance is using each month, but also gives the cost of that electricity consumption. It's a pretty cool device created by a Colorado company called, Educational Electronic Devices. The Kill-A-Watt is another device similar to the Watts Up. Although there is a waiting list for one of these energy meters, they are relatively cheap to buy (30-40 dollars).

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Colorado Solar Power Outshining State's Gas Industry

The solar industry is growing here, slowly but surely. And with 300 sunny days a year, I don't see why we can't have solar PV and thermal panels on the houses and buildings all over the state. Couple that with geothermal and also concentrated solar power plants in the San Luis Valley and we will be extremely close to running our entire state on clean, renewable energy. Our elected officials are working hard to create Colorado as the renewable energy hub in thought leadership, investment, education, and science for the country if not the world. Good things are going to happen to this state in the next decade. In addition, investment in clean energy helps to diversify our economy and prevent the boom and bust cycle Colorado is so well known for. And as we can see, natural gas and coal are not long for our future world.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Smaller And More Efficient Nuclear Battery Created

"As radioactive substances decay, they release charged particles that when properly harvested can create an electrical current."

Cool. Plus these nuclear batteries hold a million times more charge than regular batteries. Hopefully this will lead to more efficient batteries to store renewable energy (solar, wind, etc.) that is only created at certain times of the day. If we want to reduce our consumption of coal to meet our base load electricity needs then one of the things we have to do is figure out an efficient storage mechanism to store the renewable energy that was created at peak solar and wind times. There are two good articles if you want to read more about this technology, one at the BBC and one at Science Daily.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

October Is Energy Awareness Month

Fire up kids, October is energy awareness month. Let's try and remember all that we do to consume and save energy. Consuming is the easy part. Saving is a bit harder. What are some of the ways we can save energy? Telecommuting once a week. Turning down the heat a couple of degrees. Weatherizing and insulating our homes. Turning off your computer at work and at home when not in use. Setting your lights on timers or placing your outdoor lights on motion detectors. Turning down the thermostat on your water heater (120 degrees is good enough). Taking public transportation. Put on a sweater! What else?

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Energy Secretary Announces Funding for Colorado

The good doctor is releasing some more renewable energy/energy efficiency funds to the State of Colorado. $34 million will go to weatherization rebates and credits for renewable energy systems (such as PV or solar thermal) and biomass stoves. The money will also be used to help state agencies, including public schools, reduce their energy consumption and carbon footprint.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Denver Tour of Solar Homes This Saturday (Oct. 3)

Colorado Renewable Energy Society (CRES) is hosting the 2009 Denver Solar Tour of Homes this Saturday, October 3rd. Check out your neighbor's solar installations. $20 per carload or $45 for a guided bus tour. Don't forget to register! More info at the CRES web site.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Denver Releases Most CO2, Barcelona the Least

I knew the brown cloud was bad, but I didn't think that we were the worst CO2 polluter per capita in the world. From the Science Daily article:

Its (Denver) high levels were due partly to its high use of electricity, heating and industrial fuels, and ground transportation, they note.

If this is the case, then we have a lot of work to do, i.e. a plan for a robust public transit system (RTD light-rail and Fast Tracks are on the right path), re-zoning neighborhoods to allow goods and services (instead of getting in the car and driving to the grocery store or pharmacy, how about walking or biking there?), smart grid technology (already happening in Boulder) and further development of renewable energy sources to gradually replace coal (see NREL).

I remember when we went to Barcelona a couple of years ago, we stayed in an apartment in the middle of the city and we walked or took public transit everywhere. It was that easy and actually pleasant. We walked to the market to get fresh seafood and vegetables to cook in our apartment that evening. We walked to the sites and the beach to grab some sun. We took the subway out to the suburbs to spend the day in some of their beautiful parks. Of course it was a vacation, but the people of Barcelona do this every day and seem to manage. Instead of jumping in their "cages" of isolation to go to work/shopping/sites they walk or take public transportation. The population of Barcelona engages with each other simply by not being in the confines of a car. The city is buzzing with energy and ideas and there is an exchange of these ideas that can only occur when you are walking the streets, looking at your neighbor in the eye and smiling, and telling your story. Good things happen when people interact.

The transition to reduce consumption of fossil fuels will be a bit painful, but I think if Denver wants to be called a "green city" they need to reduce their CO2 emissions first. Completing this involves a new way of thinking that is definitely within our abilities.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

PG&E Corp Quits US Chamber Of Commerce Over Climate Views

Wow. Perhaps we are witnessing a sea change? Pacific Gas and Electric tells the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to cut the crap with respect to its anti-climate change stance. Refreshing. So it begins and I hope that this statement by PG&E encourages other utilities and oil, gas, and coal companies to change their viewpoints on global climate change for the better.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Panasonic: New LED Bulbs Shine for 19 Years

Ahhhh. A low wattage, low heat lightbulb that will burn for 19 beautiful years. If true this is a sign of good things to come on the LED bulb front. Say goodbye to incandescent and compact flourescent bulbs. I know these things are 40 bucks right now but the price will come down soon.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Mixing Solar with Coal to Cut Costs

Great article from MIT's Technology Review on how Abengoa Solar (located in Lakewood, Colorado) is working with Xcel Energy to build a concentrated solar power (CSP) plant to help make the steam used to turn a coal plant's turbines to generate power. Reality dictates that we cannot just stop using coal today and just rely on renewable energy to generate our electricity. There are several reasons why this is not possible. Coal burning power plants are the most cost-effective and energy efficient way of generating base load power (because you can burn coal at anytime). Wind and solar power are sporadic and we haven't found an effective way to store the power created by renewable sources (there are many up and coming methods like fuel cells or lighter batteries that hold greater charges for longer or using salt vats to keep the heated water warm). This hybrid method is a great way to begin the process of transitioning to renewable sources.

The process of preheating a water using the sun is not new. Using solar thermal units on your rooftop to preheat the water that goes into your hot water heater is a great way to save you money by reducing your natural gas bill and helping to put less CO2 in the environment. Abengoa Solar and Xcel Energy are utilizing this same method but on a power plant-size scale. Kudos to both companies for finding ways to implement renewable solutions for our energy issues.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Xcel Submits Plan to Rev Up Renewables

Excellent news from Xcel Energy via Colorado Energy News. The utility wants to, "add roughly 980 megawatts of solar and wind power by 2015 and cut carbon emissions by 10 percent." I am glad that Xcel is getting aggressive. The writing is on the wall folks, we need to start reducing our dependence on fossil fuels as an energy source. In addition, we can't keep hiding behind the tired arguments that it is going to cost too much. The cost of keeping the status quo is too great.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Five More Forged Letters Uncovered From Bonner & Associates' Work for DC Coal Lobby

Those who know their gonna lose and can't stand to lose, cheat. Take for instance the "clean coal" lobby forging letters to Congress in support of clean coal initiatives. This is sad, yet only proves the point to me that there is no such thing as clean coal.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

GM: New Chevy Volt To Get 230 Miles Per Gallon

230 miles per gallon? I guess it is go big or go home for GM right now. They can't put out a timid product with Toyota dominating the hybrid market. If the Feds approve the mileage, then GM is going to sell a lot of cars even with the $40,000 price tag. It appears that they are working on a cheaper model. This is exciting. I can't wait to test drive one next year.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Clean Energy: U.S. Lags in Research and Development

I'd have to agree that the U.S. is behind on the renewable energy front. We have numerous excuses NOT to invest in renewable energy (costs to much, we can drill our way out of our problems, the RE output of solar and wind is lower than fossil fuels such as coal and oil, CO2 emissions aren't that bad, blah, blah, blah). The excuses not to invest in RE are based on fear or excessive hand-wringing or outright ignorance. But when we compare the Apollo missions to this potential race to be the global authority with respect to RE, we can begin to see the bigger picture.

In the short term the Apollo missions were expensive ($125 billion in today's dollars) and there were probably naysayers who said that we should take care of this planet rather than reach for the stars, or that launching a manned rocket ship to the moon is not only impractical but insane. But in the long-term those naysayers were proved wrong. By putting all of America's good qualities together - ingenuity, will power, and hard work, we beat the Russians to the punch, instilled a gigantic national pride, and were seen as innovators of great proportions over the next several decades. Not to mention all of the new inventions, entire industries that were spawned and jobs created from this one $125 billion project.

So we are behind with respect to renewable energy R&D but it's because we are listening to the blowhards that continue to demean everything that is American.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Xcel Fee Proposal Slammed by State’s Solar Industry

Hmmmm. Charging future solar array customers for access to the grid? Don't know about this one. Isn't that charge already baked into the utility bill when we use electricity form the grid? It'll be interesting to see what the PUC decides on this one.

A Biofuel Process to Replace All Fossil Fuels

We knew it would come some day. From Technology Review we have an interesting article. The brain trust that is concentrated in the Cambridge, Massachusetts area has come up with a procedure to make 20,000 gallons of biofuel per acre per year (which could become price competitive with current fossil fuels). From the article:

"Joule Biotechnologies grows genetically engineered microorganisms in specially designed photobioreactors. The microorganisms use energy from the sun to convert carbon dioxide and water into ethanol or hydrocarbon fuels (such as diesel or components of gasoline). The organisms excrete the fuel, which can then be collected using conventional chemical-separation technologies."

I hope that Joule Biotech can create the same effect on a large scale. It's all about yields in a small amount of space.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Concentrating Solar Thermal Power: Clean Energy for the United States

I can't say enough about concentrated solar power (CSP). It isn't the magic bullet to cure our dependence on coal-fired electricity plants, but it is darn close. All of the cost is upfront with general maintenance and the price of solar power will never go up, unlike coal whose environmental and economic price will continue to rise. So check out this CSP article and tell me that CSP is not the way to go in the Southwestern Unites States.

OLED Breakthrough Yields 75% More Efficient Lights

Now here's something to keep your eye on. LED (light emitting diodes) give off virtually no heat and use less electricity than a compact fluorescent bulb. I can't wait until those get cheaper. Now OLEDs (organic light emitting diodes) are...well I'm not sure what makes them different than regular LEDs besides the organic parts. It seems like cool though. Any scientists out there want to read the article to see if you can make heads or tails why the OLEDs are 75% more efficient?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Costly and Unnecessary New Electricity Grid

Great article in MIT's Technology Review on why a new national grid is unnecessary and perhaps futile. The solution local and regional transmission lines. Why not use the renewable sources that are inherent to each area of the country to offset our fossil fuel use? Roughly we could use hydropower in the northwest and northeast, solar in the southwest and southeast, and wind in the midwest and offshore. Distribute those renewable power types locally instead of halfway across the country and use smart grid technology to use the renewable energy more efficiently. Sound good?

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Sustainability: Carbon Offsets, Energy Independence and National Security

Good op-ed in the Grand Junction Sentinel regarding the "cap and trade" legislation before Congress now. As the author says most people are against this bill for various reasons, one of which is cost. However, we can't afford to kick this can down the road further. There will be tremendous expense and if we don't want to pay now then when? I'll leave you with a quote from the article that sums it up nicely:

"We have ridden the coattails of cheap, subsidized fossil fuel for so long there will be economic adjustments as we internalize those costs. It would be a small price to pay to promote a smooth transition from dependency on fossil fuels to a sustainable lifestyle."

Pickens Calls Off Massive Wind Farm in Texas

This doesn't really come as a surprise to me. I guess Mr. Pickens couldn't make enough money on this bold venture. Or he really doesn't care about getting the U.S. off of Middle Wast oil. Or perhaps it was the fact that natural gas prices went into the toilet with economy. It's so sad. Remember all the ads during the presidential campaign touting the "Pickens Plan"? It was all swagger and no substance. My bet is that he couldn't get the government to pay for his transmission lines or for the conversion kit for your car to burn natural gas instead of gasoline. Nevermind the fact that natural gas is a fossil fuel (albeit burns a little cleaner than gasoline) and that the process of extracting it out of the ground is horrid (see hydraulic fracturing), not to mention what it could do to the water supply. Anyway, we don't need to burn any more fossil fuels than we currently do. There's plenty of money to be made in demand side management, the energy efficiency space, sustainability initiatives, and clean renewable energy generation. Let's get on it.

Monday, July 6, 2009

How Google’s PowerMeter Will Affect the Smart Meter Industry

Interesting article on the impact that Google will have on the smart meter industry. As opposed to being fearful that Google will dominate, smart meter companies are seeing this as a positive for their industry. In other words, the exposure that Google can give to this technology will be a boon for everybody. Check it out.

UPDATE: Not to be outdone by the Google, Microsoft has a power meter called "Hohm." Check it out. Hat tip to JTS.

Sustainability Program Turns Wood Scraps into Profit

There's a new program in Colorado to bring in excess wood (especially pine beetle kill) called Peak to Peak Wood. It won't just be used for firewood but it will also be used for deck railing and fencing. Since there is a ton of useless wood on people's land, this is a good program utilizing sustainable methods.

Big Western Power Generator Plans Colorado Wind Farm

Nice. Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association is going to add some renewable sources to their energy production by placing a wind farm on the Eastern Plains of Colorado. Hopefully they will buy their turbines from the Vestas wind turbine plant right here in Colorado.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Secretary Salazar, Senator Reid Announce ‘Fast-Track’ Initiatives for Solar Energy Development on Western Lands

Nice. We are getting some traction with using federal lands for concentrated solar power (CSP). If you remember this post, "An Evening with Dr. Kutscher and Concentrated Solar Power," the good doctor from NREL said that if we put CSP plants on just 2% of the San Luis Valley land we could power all of Colorado. CSP has a lot of potential and is the most viable solar renewable energy technology. Good times.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Sears Tower Reaches for Heights of Efficiency With $350 Million Retrofit

Good news and bad news with this story. The good news is that the Sears Tower is going to get a $350 million energy efficient makeover so it can become LEED certified. That is incredible. Lots of groovy efficiency projects in lighting, water savings, and mechanical systems. The bad news is that the Sears Tower will no longer be called the Sears Tower. It will be called Willis Tower. Willis Tower? No way. Never. Nope. What are you talking about Willis?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Instructor Prepping for Wind Energy Technician Program

There's good news for the folks up in northeastern Colorado. They are starting a new wind energy technician program at Northeastern Junior College in Sterling, Colorado. From the looks of it the person starting the program is well qualified and jazzed about wind turbine technology. We definitely need more training for our renewable energy workforce.

Governor's Energy Office Promotes Alternative Energy

The director of the Governor's Energy Office makes some good points in The Pueblo Chieftain about purchasing solar. When he refinanced his home mortgage to subsidize a solar PV array, he ended up paying more a month on his mortgage, but he saved even more on the reduced rates on his utility bill. I hadn't thought about it in this way. There's really no reason not to get solar now (with the exception of massive tress blocking the sun).

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Colorado HOAs Warm to Solar Gear, Energy-saving Residents

This is good. In my opinion HOA's wield too much power over the homeowner, even in the name of "protecting property values." And as we can see, the recent Colorado law that was passed takes some bite out of the HOA's power. This will be a boon to local companies that provide renewable energy or energy efficiency technology (like outside window blinds).

Sunday, June 14, 2009

White Rooftops May Help Slow Warming

Last year, I had my roof redone in a light tan color and I've noticed a substantial decrease in heat gain (I also had solar shades put up on the west side windows). So although it wasn't a scientific study, I think there is some validity to the "white roof" theory. Would you wear a black t-shirt on a sunny day? Only if you were always cold. So the next time you need to redo your roof, why not invest in lighter color materials? It'll save you some dollars on your cooling bill.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Preventing The Next Blackout

I don't know if I have drank (drunk?) the Amory Lovins kool-aid, but the information that comes out of his brain makes more and more sense to me. Perhaps what he is saying is just common sense after all, and I'm a bit slow on the uptake. Regardless, the man has been studying energy efficiency for decades and we should listen to him when he speaks on the subject. Plus, from what I understand he is a proponent of the free market and believes that government tends to muddy innovation up. So he's the best of both world's, a proponent of free market capitalism and a renewable energy / energy efficiency / sustainable junkie. He can capture the left and the right with his thought. A good place to be in my book.

Anyway, this article in Forbes delves into our atrocious national power grid, cobbled together with duct tape and chewing gum over the decades, and what it will take to make this grid "smart" and efficient. Good read.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Aspen Expands Energy Efficiency Mandate to Commercial Buildings

The City of Aspen is getting pretty progressive with their renewable energy and energy efficiency mandates. I am happy that they are one of the pack leaders. The latest is requiring that not only residences but commercial buildings need to follow the Renewable Energy Mitigation Program (REMP). Commercial buildings will now get charged for excess energy use. This is a positive step forward since there are numerous ways to reduce a building's energy consumption through energy efficient measures and save money at the same time. Good work City of Aspen, Colorado.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Colorado Veterans Academy to Graduate Green Job Trainees

There's a cool program at the Colorado Veterans Green Jobs Academy
to help retrain our veterans for the 21st century jobs. They are training them in weatherization and energy efficiency, which will help them become energy auditors. We are going to need as many well-trained auditors as we can get. Energy efficiency is the fastest way to save money and reduce our carbon footprints.

Green Promise Seen in Switch to LED Lighting

Once they perfect light emitting diodes (LEDs) it'll make the compact fluorescent bulb look like an oil burning reading lamp from the 1800s. This is a great article in the Times about the pros and cons with LEDs right now. I know that numerous companies are working hard to perfect the LED for all types of lighting applications. LEDs are really the perfect light. They don't give off any heat and they use very little electricity. The major problem? LEDs are extremely expensive right now and the light that they give off isn't quite right. But this will certainly be a cleaner planet once LEDs are widespread.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Vestas Makes Colorado a Clean-Energy Hub

It is companies like Vestas that will help make Colorado the renewable energy capital of the world. We already have phenomenal renewable energy research centers like the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Plus there are other research centers and testing facilities being built. This means that there will be a gigantic renewable energy knowledge base all centered in Colorado. And last but not least the Colorado economy will be bolstered with jobs. I'm getting really excited for the future here.

How Obama Made His Energy Platform 'Pop'

Interesting look into how Obama educated himself on energy and climate policy and then sold it to the American public as job creation and energy security. I don't know if you've noticed but President Obama is an adept politician with the ability to bring opposing sides to the table to hash out their differences. I think we are going to see Washington begin to work for the people again under his watch. Here's hoping that more renewable energy and energy efficiency standards get introduced and that we reduce our carbon footprint dramatically in the coming years.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Lack of Funds Could Curtail Vail Valley Solar Projects

That headline from the Vail Daily doesn't really focus on the positive aspect of this story. The $1.1 million solar incentive fund set up by Holy Cross Energy for the Vail Valley is almost gone for 2009. Sure that could be seen as a bad thing, but let's look at the glass half full. The fund paid out $2 a watt, so there is roughly 546,000 watts of electricity being produced by pure, clean renewable energy. Looks like they will have to bump that fund to a cool $2 mil next year. Good job Vail peeps. 

Monday, May 25, 2009

Purina Plant Outside of Denver Has a Solar PV Array

Kudos to the Purina pet-food plant on I-70 and York for putting in a 100 kilowatt solar PV array. Even though it only satisfies 1% (gulp) of their electricity it's a good start with clean, renewable energy. As part of their plans they also put in an efficient boiler and lighting. Good work.

Anschutz Corp. Plans Wyoming Wind Farm

Wow. A $4-6 billion wind farm project just south of Rawlins, Wyoming. They are planning to put 1,000 wind turbines and then pump the electricity to the desert southwest? Maybe they are thinking that they can sell the electricity to Las Vegas. Anschutz founded Qwest in 1996 his claim to fame was to use railroad right of ways (some of which he owned) and lay fiber for a telecom backbone. Genius at the time. Since he probably still owns those right of ways, perhaps he is thinking that he can lay transmission lines (hopefully underground) all the way to Vegas?

Return on Sustainability: How Business Can Increase Profitability and Address Climate Change in an Uncertain Economy

New book out by Kevin Wilhelm called, "Return on Sustainability: How Business Can Increase Profitability & Address Climate Change in an Uncertain Economy." The first link is to a mini book review by Sustainable Industries magazinbe and the second is a link to the book at Amazon.com.

Amsterdam Plans Sustainable Energy Company

Interesting concept - a city sets up their own sustainable energy utility. Amsterdam is pretty progressive with their CO2 emission reduction anyway (40% by 2025) so this makes sense. The city government is going to work with building owners in the city to see if they can use their rooftops for solar modules or wind turbines. Cool.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Intel vs. Dell: Friends in the Field, Competitors on Sustainability?

Interesting post on sustainability fever! I really like the way this is progressing - two very large companies, Intel and Dell competing against each other to see who can be more sustainable throughout their companies. It's really quite refreshing and hopefully other companies (public and private) will begin to take sustainability seriously.

ASES: Call your Congressional Rep about Waxman-Markey Energy Bill

The other day I posted the "10 Reasons to Support the Waxmen-Markey Energy Bill." This list was created by the Center for American Progress and was in support of the current bill cruising through Congress. Well, the American Solar Energy Society (of which I am a member) states that this bill needs to be strengthened. Read ASES's opinion here.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Global Renewable Energy Recruitment Channel Survey and Global Renewable Energy Recruitment Awards

Two things regarding www.RenewableEnergyJobs.com. One is a global survey that, "will explore current and future trends in job seeker behavior and analyze the effectiveness and popularity of various recruitment channels used across the renewable energy industry and around the world." The second is a group of renewable energy recruitment awards based on these survey results. So please check it out and complete the survey to see how we can help better the recruitment process for renewable energy jobs!

Monday, May 18, 2009

10 Reasons to Support the Waxman-Markey Energy Bill

They make some good points on the Waxman-Markey Energy Bill. I like number 5, "It would increase new building efficiency by 50%." Let's hope members of Congress do the right thing.

UT Creates Director of Sustainability Post

In my post on Saturday called, "The Life of a Sustainability Officer" I mentioned that we are going to see more and more sustainability officers in the coming years. Well it looks like the University of Texas has just hired a sustainability director for their entire campus. It's a good thing that our public institutions, like our universities, are interested in saving money and greeting a cleaner, greener campus.

Australia to Build World's Largest Solar Energy Plant

Put another shrimp on the barbie! The Aussies are about to rock and roll on a new solar power plant (article doesn't say if it is concentrated solar thermal or PV). 1000 megawatts of, "Australia's biggest natural resource." I wonder why the U.S. doesn't do this?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Life of a Sustainability Officer

As we see more demand for carbon emission accountability from corporations, we are going to see the need for executive level sustainability directors analyzing the carbon footprint of each aspect of the business. It's not just manufacturing companies that will be required to watch their carbon footprint, but information companies as well. We'll have to take into account the types of transportation our employees use to and from work, the amount of airline travel, and the amount of energy our facilities use and how efficient they are. Sustainability is not some dirty word, rather it is a sound cost-cutting measure and it's good for the planet.

Houses Move Off Grid, Into Mainstream

Good article in the Post (warning: slow load) on the net-zero movement in Colorado. Lots of projects going on, to make homes off-grid, and produce more energy and power than they consume. Now that's smart.

RE Data Geeks Rejoice! VIBE Is Here

While I was surfing the Internets I stumbled upon this cool portal from NREL. It's called VIBE and it stands for, Virtual Information Bridge to Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. The portal says that it's, "a beta version of a new portal that gets users to a wealth of energy efficiency and renewable energy information, data, and analysis tools." Now it's a little light on info now, but I expect that it'll fill out soon. So check it out, create an account, and feel the vibe.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Efficiency Can Help Us Reach Energy Independence

It's really that simple. We need standards and a plan of action on how to make our homes and businesses more energy efficient. From the article:

"There’s no need to struggle to meet our energy needs when we waste so much of the energy we already produce."

How true.

Wind and Solar Development on Western Landscapes

Great, well-balanced op-ed by Sarah Gilman from Writers on the Range on the development of Western lands with wind and solar energy production. As with anything there are pros and cons. On the one hand more solar and wind production means less use of fossil fuels, but on the other hand solar and wind production needs vast quantities of land. So as Ms. Gilman posits, do we build clean solar and wind energy sources anywhere on BLM land or do we reduce our energy consumption? I don't know. But what I do know is that we don't have much time to figure it out.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

EPA: May Is Sustainability Month

How refreshing is it to have a government that is open to new ideas and isn't afraid of the green movement? Well, the Environmental Protection Agency has declared the month of May as Sustainability Month. The goal of Sustainability Month is, "aimed at teaching people how to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." Sounds like beautiful goal.

DOE Budget Lifts Renewables, Cuts Nuclear and Coal

Actions speak louder than words. Earlier I had suspicions that our Secretary of Energy was giving just a little too much love to the coal industry. Perhaps, I am not a savvy enough politician to recognize lip service when I see it. Now since then I've learned, from people like Dr. Kutscher at NREL, that it is unwise to take anything off the table, including carbon capture and sequestration or nuclear, because the reality is that after permits and legal wrangling a new nuclear plant won't be up and running for about 10-15 years from today. In addition, carbon capture and sequestration technology is 10 years away. However, renewable energies like concentrated solar power (CSP) and photovoltaics (PV), solar thermal, and wind are ready to be implemented today on homes and on land throughout this country (remember we need just 2% of the land mass in the San Luis Valley, Colorado for CSP plants to generate all of Colorado's electricity needs!). They are clean and the energy source is free for the foreseeable future (who knows what the price of coal will be in ten years?) And what's the most important thing we can do to reduce all of our demand-side energy consumption while we try to get these supply-side energy sources online? Weatherize our homes to make them more energy efficient (I just had an energy audit on mine this week!).

Well, now we see that the Secretary of Energy is gradually shifting money to renewable energy in next year's Department of Energy budget. The momentum is shifting. We can do this with some education and some effort. Are you on board?

Saturday, May 2, 2009

An Evening with Dr. Kutscher and Concentrated Solar Power

This past Thursday, Colorado Renewable Energy Society (CRES), brought in Dr. Chuck Kutscher from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to speak about climate change and the role that concentrated solar power could play in reducing global warming. He spoke for about an hour and below are some of the highlights.

He opened his presentation with a discussion on climate change and showed the audience a video from the 1950s (I think it was from Bell Labs) that spoke about the phrase "climate change." Then he showed a cartoon from 1983 by Mike Keefe of the Denver Post that spoke to "global warming." No matter how much the oil and gas industry would like to make you think otherwise, this problem of global warming (resulting in climate change) has been with us for over 50 years. The point Dr. Kutscher was trying to make is that scientists have been researching all types of climate data for quite awhile now and have been noticing irrefutable patterns. These patterns are that ever-increasing CO2 emissions have been contributing to increasing temperatures (see the James Balog's documentation of the rapid depletion of the world's glaciers here) which is leading to climate change (droughts, violent weather, rising sea water on the coasts, etc.).

After seeing Dr. Kutscher's presentation on the effects of CO2 emissions on the planet, I am no longer willing to give the dissenters the benefit of the doubt. No longer will I tolerate the "global warming denier" viewpoint or the "global cooling" viewpoint. We are at a critical point in human history, and if we don't start reducing or CO2 emissions NOW, we will go through an unbelievable amount of suffering and chaos. Do you want to suffer?

The presentation then moved into the solutions for reducing global warming. Dr. Kutscher didn't denounce "clean-coal" or nuclear. In fact he said, "We shouldn't take any option off the table." This is a smart philosophy espoused by the good doctor. As you may know, I blogged about the Energy Secretary, Dr. Chu, talking about investing in clean coal. I actually railed against him and any "clean coal" advocates because the technology is unproven. Also, can you really imagine a gas such as CO2 staying put in a rock fissure 100 miles below the ground? What happens when an earthquake trembles the rock and the soil around that CO2? Well, I may have been a bit hasty in my criticisms of Dr. Chu and clean coal / carbon sequestration advocates, because the intelligent way is to keep an open mind and never to be so intolerant as to take any technology off the table until it is thoroughly disproved by peer review. However, when Dr. Kutscher said, "don't take it off the table," he followed that up right away with the fact that clean coal technology won't be ready for at least another 10 years. If we started the process for a nuclear power plant, it would be up and running for another 10-15 years. Essentially, the current solution to our problems with burgeoning CO2 emissions are to use viable renewable energy solutions.

One of the renewable energy solutions that the doctor said is ready to deploy today, would be concentrated solar power (CSP). Simple put CSP is the act of concentrating the sun's rays onto a tube of liquid, which turns into steam and spins a turbine to create electricity. Replace the "sun's rays" with coal and you would understand how a coal-burning electricity plant works. Solar is clean, coal is not. Now it should be noted that we should couple any renewable energy production plants with aggressive energy efficiency and weatherization initiatives (like insulation, reducing demand-side electricity consumption, etc.). Various sources (can't find them now) have said that we could reduce our energy consumption by 40% if we made our homes and buildings more efficient. Wouldn't everybody like to save a buck and reduce consumption by sticking some more insulation in your home or building aerodynamic cars?

Anyway, the presentation went onto the benefits of using CSP now. It's a technology that has been studied for decades (a couple of CSP plants have been around for 20 years), it doesn't use much water for cooling, and it is easier, cheaper, and better for the planet to store heat (in thermal energy storage units) than it is to store raw electricity in lead-acid batteries (or at least until fuel cell adoption becomes cheaper and widespread). Another benefit of concentrating the sun's rays over burning coal is that the whole world uses 13 trillion watts and there is about 600 trillion watts of available solar power. 600 trillion watts of clean power.

Another interesting benefit the doctor brought up with respect to CSP is that if you build a gas or coal plant today you do not know what the price of gas or coal is going to be in 10 years. If you build a CSP plant today you will know exactly what the price of solar is in 10 years, free. All the cost of building a CSP plant is up front. Another interesting statistics was that if we put CSP plants on just 2% of the San Luis Valley (where most of the solid sun is in CO) land, we could power all of Colorado. Two percent. I wonder how much land Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, and California would need? One last statistic the doctor provided was the cost of inaction versus action in terms of gross domestic product (GDP). The cost of acting today in the form of using renewable energy methods to reduce CO2 emissions is 1% of the world's GDP. The cost of inaction (insurance premiums due to natural disasters, crop loss due to drought, displaced people, etc.) is 5% of the world's GDP. I think it's time to act. It'll be cheaper, right?

Dr. Kutscher's presentation at CRES was well done, and provided factual evidence that demonstrated how urgent we must be in reducing our carbon emissions. I know the issues are complex, and going with clean energy production will cost a TON of money, but let's put it this way- if we can afford a trillion for a war in Iraq to protect the oil supply out of the Middle East, we can afford a trillion dollars to convert our energy supply to renewable sources. Right?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Dr. Chu Brings Some Serious Coin to NREL

Dr. Chu goes to Golden, Colorado and sets up the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), big time. I thought he was just going to focus on wind and that was it. Not only is NREL getting $93 million for the wind program, but they are also getting $100 million for, "NREL facility and infrastructure improvements," which includes solar and biofuels. Unbelievable. That's almost $200 million in funding which will be put to good use by the bright minds at NREL. Finally, an energy secretary who is supportive of the renewable community. Read all about the groovy details in the DOE press release. I look forward to seeing more funding next year.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Energy Secretary Brings Money to NREL

U.S. Energy Secretary Dr. Chu is coming to Colorado tomorrow to bring some money to National Renewable Energy Lab's (NREL) wind program. Now this is great, great news for the wind program, but I am also wondering if the solar and biofuel programs are going to feel the love from the good doctor. With his recent embrace of clean coal investments, I'm not exactly sure those other critical programs will receive the same reception. Come on Dr. Chu, do the right thing.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Updating Vintage Homes Is Recycling at Its Best

Great article in the Denver Post about renovating old homes and what you can do to make your home energy efficient. Remember it is important to have an energy audit before you augment your home with renewable energy generation (such as solar thermal or PV). In other words your ROI is greater on your PV or solar thermal system if you weatherize your home.

Tequila Fuels Cars

Correction: A reader pointed out a few errors in my post on agave. First agave is not a cactus, but rather a succulent plant with narrow spiny leaves. And the worm reference in the headline is technically incorrect. The worm can be found in mescal, not tequila. I stand corrected.
The discoveries are coming fast and furious these days. Looks like agave (the cactus used to make tequila) might be an effective biomass that could be turned into a biofuel. Other good qualities of the agave plant is efficient use of water and more gallons of the fuel per acre (even more that sugar cane). Plus agave is grown in the desert and not on precious farmland. Cool.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Jones Soda Goes Off the Grid for Earth Day

Even though it is off the grid for just one day, I like the concept here. Jones Soda is showing the world that they can use nine bikes (pedaled continuously of course) to power their computers and servers for the day. They will also turn the lights off in their building (they will have enough natural light from skylights and windows) to save some more energy. There are two important points here. One, that buildings can be designed to be energy efficient and use the natural light of the sun during normal business hours. Two, that there is a way to provide your own energy through physical exercise to turn a turbine which will create electricity. Imagine what types of energy loads we could offset by using our own energy after work or on the weekends to create some electricity? Also, throw in the use of hydrogen fuel cells for the home or business and we all might be able to be off the grid someday with localized renewable energy production. The future is looking bright.

Yamaha Motor Test-Drives Golf Cart Fuelled by Cow Dung

Nice. Yamaha invents a golf-cart that runs on biofuel from cow poop, then they test it in a town in Japan that actually promotes the use of biofuels at every turn. Now I'm not sure of the value a golf cart that runs on methane has. Is the carbon footprint of a methane gas golf cart smaller than that of charging a battery with a coal fired electricity plant? Or what about charging the batteries using a solar array or wind power? Or a small turbine that is powered by methane gas from cow poop? I'm not sure. Perhaps it is just the imagination that kicked in and Yamaha wanted to see if it was scalable. But I would rather see them put some brain power behind a hydrogen fuel cell that burns clean.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Spam E-mails Killing the Environment, McAfee Report Says

Interesting. Calculating the carbon footprint of spam. Here's the money quote:

"The McAfee report, which was written by consulting company ICF International, said the estimated 62 trillion spam e-mail that get sent each year consume 33 billion kilowatt hours of electricity, enough to power 2.4 million homes. In addition, spam e-mail releases as much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as 3.1 million cars consuming 2 billion gallons of gasoline."

Save the planet. Ban spam.

Florida Announces World’s First Solar-Powered City

What a cool concept. With over 300 sunny days a year, I wish Colorado would do something like this. And what about Arizona, New Mexico, and California? Urban planners unite!

Algae Could 'Supply Entire World with Aviation Fuel'

Hmm. A Total oil executive says that there needs to be a tax on airlines for the fuel they use and that we need to save our precious supply of oil. Now an airline exec from Boeing says that algae based biofuels could supply airlines with all of the fuel they need. Now let's see. Where should we invest our money and time? In traditional finite, petroleum-based fuels or in organic based biofuels that are renewable? Hmm. Reason number 1,345,054 to take the word of oil executives with a grain of salt.

Obama: High-Speed Rail System Needed

Ahhhhhhh. Let's say it again. "High-speed rail." Pure poetry. I love taking the train. There is something peaceful about it. I know that sounds weird, but when you compare a train ride to a plane ride it really is night and day. The only issue is the amount of time the train takes (think Amtrak). Hopefully a faster train line across the U.S. will alleviate the time issue.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Energy Secretary Backs Clean-Coal Investments

Umm. Well, I hope this is only the political side of Dr. Chu talking and it's a chess match where he is five moves ahead. Perhaps the Obama administration needs to acknowledge the coal industry so that they don't freak out with all of this renewable energy talk. I hope. As I've discussed before, there is no such thing as clean coal and carbon sequestration is a pipe-dream. Using the arguement that we need to invest in the technology to make coal cleaner or bury the CO2 underground and then export it to China and India is a bit weak. Perhaps we need to invest more heavily in renewable technology and the export that to China and India so that they don't have to burn coal? I know my arguement is extremely simple, but it is no more simple than Dr. Chu's.

Op-Ed: NREL’s History of Fickle Funding

Anne Butterfield nails it in her op-ed in the Daily Camera. If the Energy Secretary, Dr. Steven Chu, believes what his boss says about renewable energy then he needs to allocate reliable funding for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) now. Those hard-working scientists at NREL have been working diligently, quietly, and on a shoe-string budget for the last 30 years. They've lasted through the tragic energy policy myopia of Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, and Bush II. The time is now. No more lip-speak.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Governor Ritter Celebrates New Energy Economy Jobs and Opportunities for Colorado

A press release from the governor's office says that the grand opening of the Abound Solar and GE Energy Control Solutions factories occurred today. These companies will employ about 600 people! What we are seeing here is an investment in a new energy economy in Colorado, in addition to demonstrating that Colorado can be the renewable energy thought leader of the world. These are good times indeed.

Update: More info from 9News on Abound Solar and their low cost manufacturing process.

Energy Executive on the End of Oil

Interesting interview with a Total oil exec from over the pond. He mentions that oil production will stagnate over the next 20 years. I wonder if all oil execs believe this to be true but refuse to admit this publicly. If this is indeed true, would the best business strategy be to just sit on the oil that is left in the form of "saving it," or is the smart money on finding new ways of producing energy? Hmmm.

The Total oil exec in the interview is advocating a "save the oil" mentality as a first means of easing the stagnating oil production problem. This is of course opposed to investing in the advancement of renewable energy sources. Yes, I think we should save oil and reduce our consumption. But the ultimate goal is to find other sources of energy that are renewable, won't hurt the planet, and where money can be made. Right? Why is it so hard for these oil execs to break out of the petroleum paradigm?

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Salazar Calls for Bold Steps Toward Energy Independence

I'm pleased that renewable energy and energy independence is consistently in the Secretary of the Interior's national dialogue. One of the problems with the dialogue of prior administrations (Bush, Clinton, Bush, Reagan) was that energy independence was perhaps spoken about, but there were no solutions or policies put in place to get us there. Consistently I hear Secretary Salazar talk about the need to supplement our energy options with renewable energy such as wind, solar, geothermal, and biofuels. He realizes that we cannot continue to solely rely on the internal combustion engine or coal-fired electricity plants. There needs to be other choices in order for us to become energy independent. But what are the options and solutions? Read the synopsis of Secretary Salazar's latest speech. There are some good ideas in there.

Diatoms Could Triple Solar Cell Efficiency

I pondered out loud recently at the seemingly numerous technological advancements in the RE sector. They appear to be coming fast and furious these days. Now there is another one, where solar cell efficiency can be tripled with microscopic algae called diatoms. The diatoms trap the light and suggest that more photons are then captured and converted to electricity. I'm constantly amazed at the ingenuity of the human mind. Check out the article.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Anti-renewable IREA Says Conservation Bill Violates Its ‘Right to Dissent'

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that the Intermountain Rural Electric Association (IREA) is out to lunch and taking a nap. There are several issues in this article by the Colorado Independent where IREA seems like they have an agenda that isn't in the interest of their consumers, nor the communities that surround their coal-fired electricity plants. They're agenda seems to me to be a little too much of "don't tread on me" when they need a little more, "do the right thing."

I had a gander at IREA's website and lo and behold right on their homepage towards the bottom is a bit of revealing information. They attack global warming and climate change with the title, "Is Earth Entering Another Cooling Cycle?" We can debate the semantics and science of whether the Earth is warming, cooling, or doing nothing at all. Whatever the case may be (and we will see), you cannot deny the fact that electricity created by coal-fired power plants is horrible for the air we breathe and water we drink. It is a fact. Coal is dirty. And even though we can't see the particulates in the air or coal slurry that is seeping into our water supplies, it is still affecting our bodies. I bet IREA would deny that as well.

Now as I've said before we cannot just turn off the coal-burning power plants. I've discussed it in my recent post, "There Is No Such Thing As Clean Coal". The need for base load power is critical. But this is not an excuse to refuse the implementation of other options in energy generation. To attempt to appeal to IREA's base instincts, implementing renewable energy to supplement the power supply makes good business sense for a few reasons. It's sustainable, it comes from a renewable resource (sun and wind), it's good for our health, there is an infinite supply (all fossil fuels are finite), sun and wind are easier to harvest (as opposed to digging mines or removing from mountain tops), renewables will become cheaper than coal, and due to the great technological minds in this country, renewable sources will eventually produce more output power than coal.

This article and the attitude of IREA makes me think that they are more interested in putting a stick in the eye of environmentalists/climate change advocates rather than exploring ways of supplementing their customer's energy supply with renewable energy.

Oh and one more thing. Smoking was once acceptable and even advocated by doctors and nurses in magazine advertisements. We now know that smoking kills, not to mention all of the horrible side-effects from diseases such as arteriosclerosis, emphysema, and lung or throat cancer. So just as smoking was once acceptable and then found to be horrible for the human body, I predict that one day we will look at burning coal to provide us with electricity as brutal and depraved.

Wake up IREA, your actions lead us to believe that you've been sleeping since the 1930s.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

New Solar Power Plant in San Luis Valley

I know it's only a press release from the Governor Ritter's office, but there is exciting news in the San Luis Valley. Xcel Energy and SunPower Corp. are going to build what is North America's second-largest high-efficiency photovoltaic solar plant. It'll be 17 megawatts of pure photovoltaic love. And there is already a solar thermal plant down there. Good work Xcel and SunPower.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Lawyers Urge Caution in Wind Turbine Deals

This article actually gives some good advice if you are contemplating having a private company put up wind turbines on your property. Many people see dollar signs up front but there are also lease options to consider. The takeaway? Get a lawyer whenever a contract is involved.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Turbine Plan Whips Up Protests in Quiet, Rural Area West of Chicago

I read this article in the Chicago Tribune this past week and I must say that I am puzzled by the "not in my backyard attitude" that is beginning to flourish whenever someone wants to put up a wind turbine farm. I can understand this attitude with nuclear waste, but wind turbines?

While I was driving along I-80 this past week I noticed that there were numerous (50?) wind turbines in western Iowa (which is the 2nd highest wind-producing state). These light colored windmills were majestic and peaceful dotting the landscape on both the north and south side of the interstate as far as the eye could see. One of the wind mills wasn't moving and I noticed that there were two trucks parked at the bottom of the turbine. I wondered how long it took for the mechanics to climb the tower up to the turbine. I mused at what kind of view the workers had at the top. I also thought about how these workers were probably sipping coffee with their families or sleeping when they received a notification that this turbine was offline. I thought about all of the jobs that were created for this wind farm project and all of the jobs that will be needed to maintain these turbines. I also thought about the positive impact that these wind turbines will have on the air quality of the surrounding communities due to the reduced need for electricity from burning coal.

My reason for mentioning this anecdote is that the synchronicity was too hard to ignore. I think the folks mentioned in the article that aren't too terribly enamored with wind turbines are missing the big picture. These wind farms are a clean supply of electricity that will have a positive benefit to their families, their communities, and future generations. They will also create jobs for construction and for maintenance. Now, I didn't stand underneath one of the wind turbines and listen to how much noise they were making, but when the wind is blowing, how much can one hear anyway? I wonder how the wind companies are addressing these concerns.

Friday, March 27, 2009

There Is No Such Thing as Clean Coal

I saw an ad on the television the other day, using a clip of President Barack Obama (presidential candidate at the time) on the campaign trail saying to the crowd that clean coal (scrubbing sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and other particulate emissions from the coal-burning process) could be a reality some day soon. I've also seen and heard Barry Schweitzer, governor of Montana, speak to the benefits of carbon sequestration (burying carbon dioxide underground) from coal-fired power plants. The latter is unproven on a large-sale and is cost prohibitive. The former is to me an oxymoron. Even if you capture all of the particulate matter and toxic chemicals from the coal-burning process where do you put it? We've seen what happened in Tennessee when we put another by-product of the coal burning process, fly-ash (aka "slurry"), into large storage ponds or landfills. There's a chance that it will spill, flood, or completely leach into the water supply as we saw in Tennessee in December 2008.

If you hadn't already noticed from the masthead above, I am a proponent of renewable energy. The reasons are simple. For one, the current rate at which the U.S. and other emerging economies (China and India) burn coal for their electricity and/or use oil in the combustion engine is unsustainable. These fossil fuels are both finite and hazardous to humans, animals and the planet itself. Second, I am a much happier person (and I think it's safe to say for all Earthly people) with clean air, water, and land. Burning coal or oil doesn't contribute to clean air, water, or land. Using renewable energy sources does. Third, finding renewable resources to assist with our energy needs is the right thing to do for the living and future generations.

I am not an environmentalist or a moral crusader. I am realist. That having been said, I am going to go out on a limb here and say that there is no such thing as clean coal and burying carbon dioxide underground is a fool's errand. Utilizing renewable, clean energy technologies to offset some of our coal-burning is a step in the right direction. And let it be known that I completely understand that the road ahead involves a partnership with coal, because the base electricity load cannot be supported by solar or wind technologies alone. Coal still needs to be used for the foreseeable future. But we can't continue to use coal as our primary means to electricity because it is the cheapest source out there. When our skies are polluted and our coastal cities are flooded and our droughts get worse, and the forest fires become more intense and prevalent, and the food supply dwindles, and people begin to starve, I dare say that we aren't going to care whether things are "cheaper."

So let's lose the myopia, and the feeble attempts at placating the coal and oil lobbies who scream that the sky will fall and jobs will be lost if we take away the lush subsidies that they receive today. We need to roll up our sleeves and figure out a way to transfer most of our energy production to renewable sources as soon as possible. This isn't a time for politics as usual or business as usual. This isn't time for outta sight outta mind and back to our SUVs and driving 10 miles to the grocery store just because gas prices are low. This is time to plan for the future with innovation and research and investment into renewable energy, alternative public transportation sources, localization (food, energy, and commerce), smart grids, and urban renewal. What do you think?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

World’s Fastest Electric Car is a 1972 Datsun

Nice. 0-60 mph in 3 seconds! 20 minutes to charge, and it'll run for about 40 miles on a charge. That's impressive. And how fun would it be to drag race an electric '72 Datsun against BMWs and Ferrari's and blow their doors off? It would be hard to wipe the silly little grin off of my face.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Stimulus Bill to Boost Colorado's New Energy Economy

Really nice article on what the stimulus bill is going to do to promote renewable energy and energy efficiency in Colorado. Nestled within the article is a hint of Colorado being a renewable energy leader that other states can use as a model. It's definitely becoming a reality but I am not going to celebrate yet because there is a lot of work to do. So read the article yourself and start to think about weatherizing your home, or installing that solar thermal system to help offset the cost to heat your pool or jacuzzi, or maybe a PV array to provide electricity for your home or business. All of these actions will go to employing more people and helping to cement Colorado as a leader in this industry.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Ascent Solar World HQ Grand Opening in Colorado

Ascent Solar's worldwide headquarters and manufacturing plant had their grand opening today with Governor Ritter attending. They expect to hire up to 200 people over the next year. Ascent Solar manufacturers thin-film solar technology, which has many applications (think PV on a thin and light substrate as oppossed to those large and heavy PV modules you see on roof tops). This is a good day for Colorado and another step forward into become a leader in renewable energy. Congratulations Ascent Solar!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

New Honda Takes on the Prius

A little competition never hurt anybody. Looks as though Honda is back in the market selling hybrids. Hopefully this will squeeze Toyota a bit to drop their prices so more people can afford these cars. We'll see.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Boulder County's ClimateSmart Loan Program: April 1 to April 10, 2009

For those of you in Boulder county, the ClimateSmart Loan application window is coming up soon. The ClimateSmart Loan Program provides low-interest loans for renewable energy and energy efficiency improvements for residents in Boulder county. The application window is April 1 through April 10, 2009. That's 10 short days. More information can be found through the following:

Boulder County ClimateSmart: For a list of eligible measures, property owner checklists and loan details) www.bouldercounty.org/bocc/climatesmartloanprogram

Center for Resource Conservation: For workshop details and registration
303-999-3820 x216

Standard Renewable Energy: For ClimateSmart Value Packages and to schedule an Energy Audit
(303) 562-2752

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Colorado Brewer Learns Lesson About Green Marketing

Talk about turning lemons into lemonade. Kudos to New Belgium Brewing Co. in Fort Collins, Colorado for releasing a sustainability report on their environmental footprint and for demonstrating that a corporation can have integrity and humility and still be successful.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Renewable Energy a Top Priority for U.S. Interior Secretary

I've had my disagreements with Ken Salazar when he was a Colorado Senator over some of his political positions, but I must say that he has blossomed quite nicely as the U.S. Interior Secretary. This past week he issued an order that recognizes our dependence on foreign oil and the need for a clean energy economy with new jobs. It is refreshing to see an Interior Secretary that is concerned with addressing our national addiction rather than doing business as usual.

Friday, March 13, 2009

University of Miami Physicist Develops Battery Using New Source of Energy

Synchronicity lurks in the battery world? Another battery story, but different from the one I posted on Wednesday. This one happens to be about storing energy with magnets instead of with the chemical reactions in a typical battery (think lead-acid). Really interesting invention.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

U.S. Engineers Find Way to Build a Better Battery

Update: more scientific candy here at MIT's Technology Review.

Wow. Researchers have figured out a way to charge a cell phone lithium battery in seconds. How exciting and how unbelievable. Just think of all the applications that this technology can be used for. Check out the article for the scientific goodies.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Xcel CEO Reconfirms Company’s Commitments: Efficiency Programs Still a Priority

It's good to see that Xcel's leadership is committed to reducing consumer demand for energy (aka demand side management) through various energy efficiency programs. As I've said before making your home or building energy efficient provides a bigger and faster ROI than investing in supply side technology like PV or solar thermal. So, it does make good business sense for Xcel to make an investment in these type of demand side management programs, as opposed to only building new renewable energy power plants where the ROI would take longer. First step of initiating your own demand side management program is of course, the obligatory energy audit.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

NY Times Op-Ed: Home-grown Power

I'm going to have to agree with Mr. Bowles on most of his points in his op-ed. The model of generating power in one place and then transmitting it over a wire a hundred miles away seems to me to be a bit outdated, if not cost prohibitive. I believe that my old friend, "localization" might need to be brought up again.

As Mr. Bowles mentions there are several methods of renewable energy production that are respective to their geography, "hydropower in the Northwest, solar in the Southwest, and wind farms offshore in the ocean." These green power methods can be produced regionally and distributed regionally. In addition, power generation from the grid can be supplemented with home power (PV, solar thermal) and energy efficiency methods (insulation, caulking, Energy Star appliances, efficient HVACs) which will reduce the need for power. Couple that with a dose of conservation and we might just have an abundance of clean energy.

So, although building new power transmission lines across the U.S. might provide for new jobs, we should take a serious look at localized energy production and distribution, which will be cost effective, will begin to perpetuate a localized mindset (think local agriculture, too), and will help eliminate single points of failure in the transmission grid. Who doesn't like a little home-grown love anyway?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Why Biofuels Are the Rainforest's Worst Enemy

In my post below this one, I should have added one more thing to my statement on 'using human food sources for biofuels." It is not just turning human food sources into biofuels that is egregious (in my humble opinion), but that growing biomass on agriculturally viable land (whether it be fertile farmland or acres of rain forest) is troublesome. Any threat to food supplies or biodiversity is problematic (and also shows that we do not take future generations into consideration).

This excellent reporting by Mother Jones magazine on the rush to grow oil palms (good for creating biodiesel, apparently) on diverse rain forest land is particularly troublesome. The rush to find cheaper fuel is clouded with the myopia of short-term profits. Third world nations, with the help of their governments, are rushing to grow palm trees on rain forest land. If the rain forests die, we die. It is really that simple.

The second-generation biofuels that I am talking about are the algaes that can be grown in tanks in the desert. That is the type of biofuel that we can generate with somewhat of a clear conscience and an eye toward the future. I wonder when we are going to stop this nonsense of short-term thinking and greed.

Light Immersion Technology Could Speed Up Algae Growth, Lower Biofuel Costs

It is encouraging that researchers are beginning to realize that second generation biofuels are the practical and moral way to go (as opposed to using human food sources such as corn to create fuel for our automobiles). In addition, I am encouraged by all of the research that is being put towards second gen biofuels. Articles such as this one on speeding up algae growth with "light immersion technology" demonstrate the good things that can come from the inquisitive and scientific human mind. More of this please.

Friday, February 27, 2009

The Rocky Mountain News Closes: An Op-Ed By A Crusty Blogger Looking Toward the Future

And so it goes. I know newspapers are collapsing all over the country, and that we've known that the industry has been suffering for some time now. But when a large newspaper in your town folds with barely any notice, it is a huge and dramatic event. Jobs are lost, routines completely disrupted, and a way of life gone. However, the newspaper's across the country that have folded and are about to fold are indicative of something at hand that is much bigger.

The printing press was invented by Johannes Gutenberg around 1439. I think it's safe to say that some enterprising individuals made the first newspaper around that time and distributed it to all who could read. So newspapers have been around in various forms for the last 570 years! That's over half a millennium. What a run it's been. Think of how many cups of coffee have been drunk, how many pages crinkled and rubbed between inky fingertips, how many fists pounded on kitchen tables after reading an article, how many crossword puzzles left incomplete, how many comics that generated a laugh. Oh, a heck of a lot. Well, it was a good run.

Now, I'm not ready to put the nail in the coffin of newspapers yet. They must adapt or disappear. I do think that we've had a good thing with newspapers for the last 570 years, but that something new and fresh must come about to rock us out of our complacency, to challenge the way we think, and to allow us to progress as a society. What'll eventually replace the newspaper as we know it today? I have no idea. What I do know is that the future is exciting and the medium I am using now to communicate with y'all is just the beginning.

A blog is not perfect and I believe that most blogs need a bit more journalistic integrity (me included) than we're seeing today. But it's a medium in its infancy and as with anything it will evolve (or perish). I surmise that the first newspapers were probably just rants on whatever topic put a burr in the author's saddle. And I guess that the first newspapers were created and read only by the wealthy. Blogs on the other hand are the great equalizer, a dose of democracy put in the hand's of anybody who has access to an Internet connection (free at the public libraries). I can fire up the series of tubes, surf the Google, and read about how the Iraq war is impacting a family in Iraq. I can't get that kind of perspective in any newspaper, with men and women sitting in the safety of their ivory towers musing on a war thousands of miles away (I think in Homage to Catalonia, George Orwell brought this up about journalists who write about war without having stepped foot on the battlefield. I'd like to think that Orwell would have had an iPhone and posted real-time notes from the trenches on his battle with the Spanish Fascists). Anyway the point is that I can get observations on a topic, undistilled and unfiltered by commercial interests, that is important to me, from somebody half a world away. To this blogger, that is completely mind-blowing and awesome.

There's going going to be a lot of grieving and pain at the loss of the old and hope and growing pains with the new. But I think we'll come out alright in the end. Don't you?

So I'll leave it at that. Rest in peace Rocky Mountain News. We'll miss you.

Colorado State of Mind Talks about Energy

There was a well-rounded discussion on Colorado State of Mind this evening regarding energy. The title of the show was, "Federal Stimulus Package and Energy" and the panel was pretty solid. The conversation weaved through a bunch of issues such as tax credits, base load, free market, lowering carbon emissions, natural gas drilling on the Western Slope, smart grids, internal combustion engine inefficiencies, fuel price risks, local power generation, micro grids, plug-in electric cars, the escalating cost of coal, and much more. Head on over to their website. The video should be up soon.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Colorado Shares Wind-power Info with Honduras

The folks at NREL hosted Honduras President Manuel Zelaya and shared information on renewable energy. Looks like they went to the National Wind Testing Center and talked about good locations for wind farms in Honduras. Hosting international delegations is a positive thing for Colorado and helps solidify our reputation as a renewable energy thought-leader. More of these please!

$550K in Energy-cost Savings for El Paso County

Now here's an energy plan I can get behind. Close down the building on Friday's, have four day work weeks for your employees, and save the tax-payers $550K. Nice.

A Dose of Reality by the Coen Brothers

The internets are ablaze with another witty video from The Reality Campaign, this time created by the Coen Brothers. Watch it here.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Former U.S. Senator to Speak at CRES Meeting, Feb. 26th

Former U.S. Senator Gary Hart is going to speak about President Barack Obama's Energy Plan at the next Colorado Renewable Energy Society (CRES) meeting. The meeting is this Thursday, February 26 at 7:00pm. Location and more information here.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Energy Cornucopia: The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009

Here's a good blog post on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 with respect to energy efficiency and renewable energy. Here's some of the meat:

"...$3.2 B for energy efficiency & conservation Block Grants, $5 B for the Weatherization Assistance Program, $3.1 B for state energy programs, $2 B for grants to advanced battery manufacturers in the US, $2.5 B for applied research, development and deployment, along with another billion split among alternative fuel vehicle pilot projects, transportation electrification, and energy efficient appliance rebates and Energy Star."

I look forward to more dissection of this bill in the coming weeks. But for now this is a good start to kick-starting the renewable energy industry.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

BMW Manufacturing Launches Wind Power Study

BMW is going to do a wind feasibility study to gauge whether their manufacturing plant in South Carolina has enough wind to justify some turbines. If the study is positive and they put up some turbines this will be in addition to their methane power from the local landfill. I knew I liked Beemers.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

President Obama Signs Stimulus Bill in Denver

President Barack Obama (has a nice ring to it eh?) flew all the way to Denver, Colorado today to sign the stimulus bill into law at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. You may ask yourself, why Colorado and why at a museum? Well, the museum has a PV solar array on the roof and Colorado is the renewable energy thought leader of the world (well I may exaggerate a bit, but one day we will be). Whatever the case, I do believe now that this president is committed to energy efficiency and renewable energy for at least the next 4 (hopefully 8) years. This committment is necessary for the U.S. to remain competitive in the world, for our economy to continue to grow, for the stability of the RE industry, and to help mitigate the effects of global warming.

This is just the beginning however. We now must let out that collective sigh and get to work, because we can't always count on the leadership of President Obama to guarantee centuries of energy production from renewable sources.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Denver Sun Sponge Is One Year Old!

One year ago today was the first post on Denver Sun Sponge. I guess I need to do the obligatory reflection and bask in a wave of nostalgia. But first I'll start with some of my personal goals for the blog.

I started this blog with three goals. One was to educate myself on the renewable energy industry. Two was to educate the public on renewable energy. And three was to improve my writing skills in the blogging forum. I know that I've learned much about the industry through reading, posting, and commenting on news articles. Another supplement to my education (and one that has reduced the amount of posts) has been classes at Red Rocks Community College in their brand new renewable energy program. I've always had a bit of fondness for community colleges. There are people there trying to reinvent themselves as they realize the industries they have worked in for many years is slowly dying. Plus community college teachers all have day jobs and understand the application in the real world. But I must say that a year of educating myself on renewable energy is just the beginning. (Secretly, I wish I started 10 years ago.) I do look forward to many fruitful years of Denver Sun Sponge.

As far as the other goals (educating the public and improving my writing) well that will have to be judged by you folks. I know that my readership has been low over this past year, and it is my desire to increase it far beyond the current state. I've started posting on Twitter to complement the blog. It's been a fascinating exploration of new media and I've met a few interesting people through Twitter. All in all I hope to increase readership through additional new media marketing methods (and some traditional ones as well). It should be an interesting year.

Finally, I'd just like to say thanks to the many unsung heroes (and heroines) of the renewable energy community. There are a lot of people out there working to make Colorado the renewable energy thought-leader of the world. There are also a lot of people around the world who work tirelessly and without much fanfare to make sure that planet Earth starts using renewable energy sources for our electricity, heat, and transportation. To them I say thanks.

Oh and one more thing. I'd like to give a shout out to the person who came up with the name of this blog. DHill, you know who you are.

Thanks for reading everybody.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Harnessing Hamster Power with a Nanogenerator

The MIT folks aren't the only geniuses. Georgia Tech has a few of their own. Looks like the scientists have figured out a way to use body motion to power a nanogenerator and they are testing on a hamster now. Next, we could have jackets that use our body motion to produce electricity. Nice.

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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