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

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 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?

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.


Abengoa Solar (1) Al Gore (3) algae (3) Amory Lovins (3) anniversary post (1) Arnold Goldman (1) ASES (1) automobile (6) award (3) bacteria (1) bad policy (2) base load (4) battery (4) beer (6) behavior change (2) Berkeley (1) bicycle (1) big business (9) big oil (15) biofuels (39) biomass (3) biomimicry (1) BLM (2) building efficiency (1) carbon capture and storage (1) carbon footprint (5) carbon neutrality (1) cheaper than coal (8) china (1) clean energy (37) cleaner than coal (11) cleantech (29) climate change (2) coal (6) Colorado (204) community solar (4) compost (1) concentrated solar power (17) Congress (6) conservation (3) conserve water (2) consumption (1) covered parking lots (2) CRES (2) CSP (13) Dan Staley (1) demand side management (4) denver (1) department of energy (1) desert (1) distributed power generation (10) DNC (3) DoE (1) doitforthechildren (13) Dr. Dan Arvizu (1) Dr. Ken Swift (1) Dr. Varun Rai (1) editorial (5) education (32) efficiency (11) electric automobiles (9) electric bike (1) energy (7) energy audit (18) energy efficiency (5) energy efficient buildings (62) energy efficient lighting (3) energy independence (5) energy summit (2) environment (5) EPA (4) ethanol (5) externalities (1) financing (2) food (4) fossil fuels (2) fuel cells (3) fuel efficiency (3) futility (3) future thinking (18) gasguzzlersbegone (8) George Orwell (1) geothermal (14) good business (3) good debate (5) good government (79) good thinking (59) grappa (1) green building (1) greengarbage (1) greenhouse gas (1) greenisgood (15) grid-parity (1) HadCRU (1) health (2) high-speed rail (1) Hispanic market (1) homegrown (1) hvac (1) hybrids (3) hydrogen (4) i heart libraries (1) IECC (1) Ignite (2) inaugural post (1) incentives (2) India (1) ingenuity (15) International Energy Conservation Code (1) interview (3) investment (42) irony (1) it'sabouttime (3) jobs (78) kinetic energy (1) Kristen Brown (1) law (6) leasing (3) LED (2) LEED certified (3) legislation (7) light emitting diode (2) localization (21) manufacturing (4) market forces (2) marketing (1) methane gas (5) MIT (8) moo (1) morality (6) morals (1) musings (1) NASA (1) natural gas (11) newyear (1) NOAA (1) nomoredumbpoliticians (9) nomorepetroleum (11) non-originalthought (1) nostalgia (1) NREL (33) nuclear (2) off the grid (1) offshore wind farm (2) op-ed (11) OPEC (1) peak oil (2) petroleumiswaytired (8) photovoltaics (3) piezoelectric (2) policy (33) poopisfuel (4) power plants (9) power purchase agreement (1) President Barack Obama (11) profitability (3) progressive (2) public transit (1) PV (44) renewable energy (2) renewable energy market (1) research (24) ROI (5) RPS (5) Santiago Seage (1) science (23) science is cool (11) Sean Ong (1) second generation biofuels (5) smart design (5) smart grid (12) solar (65) solar cell (4) solar cell efficiency (3) Solar Electric Light Fund (1) solar electric thermal (2) solar gardens (3) solar leases (1) solar market (17) solar thermal (15) solar water heating (1) speed-to-market (2) Steven Chu (1) subsidies (11) suddenoutbreakofcommonsense (24) sun is good (47) Superfund (1) sustainability (46) systems thinking (1) tax credits (22) technology (6) thin-film solar (7) tornado (1) transmission (3) trees (1) triple bottom line (1) United Nations (1) utilities (26) wakeupcall (1) water (3) wearewhatweeat (5) wecandobetter (3) wind (61) World Bank (1) world renewable energy forum (7) WREF 2012 (7) WREF2012 (1) zero energy (3) zero waste (1) zero-energy building (2)

Blog Archive