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.

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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