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.

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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