Sunday, February 28, 2010

HOME STAR Program: Putting Americans Back to Work

One of the hardest hit sectors in this latest economic tailspin has been the construction industry. Millions of contractors, electricians, manufacturers, carpenters, plumbers - you name it - are sitting idle, unable to find work, and unable to pay their bills. According to the Home Performance Resource Center while the national unemployment rate hovers near 10%, the construction industry rate is closer to 25%. The jobs just aren't there anymore.

So, we must create the jobs. And what better way to utilize the skills of all these unemployed construction workers than to put them to work retrofitting, weatherizing and making millions of residential buildings more energy efficient. Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA) and Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) are going to introduce a bill, "establishing a HOME STAR program of consumer rebates for home energy efficiency retrofits." Now that's good government.

Once the bill is introduced, call your Senators and ask them to support the HOME STAR bill so we can save homeowners money, reduce our carbon footprint, and put folks back to work.

Glenwood Springs Council Supports Energy Finance District

Glenwood Springs, Colorado has decided on creating a "Clean Energy Financing District" for commercial and residential property owners of that area. What this designation does is allow property owners to receive low-interest, long-term loans for any clean energy project. The loan then gets attached to their property taxes and they gradually pay it off. If they sell the property, the loan stays with the property and is assigned to the new owner. We've seen this model before in Boulder, Colorado with the Boulder County ClimateSmart Loan Program. This model is a great way to promote clean energy, reduce carbon emissions, create jobs, and improve the economic vitality of the region.

Ritter: Investing In A 'Clean Energy Future'

I sure hope that Colorado's next governor is as "in tune" with generating a clean energy economy as Governor Bill Ritter has been. Here's a video interview with Governor Ritter from National Journal. I think the following quote sums up the vision that the next governor of Colorado has to have with respect to our clean energy economy:

"For my purposes, whatever it (climate change legislation) looks like, it should have as its goal that we diversify the energy portfolio in this country and we rely less on foreign sources for oil. The second part of it is that it addresses climate issues, addresses environmental challenges that we have. And the third -- that it's focused on job creation. The reason ... we're a leader in Colorado in green energy... I call it the clean energy future -- is because we've been able to do those three things and do them at same time."

The Business Case for Climate Solutions

Check out this commentary piece in the Denver Post by Hunter Lovins and let me know what you think. Essentially, it speaks to the necessity of investing in clean energy and energy efficiency measures to help boost the Colorado economy, help ease the environmental and economic impact of climate change, and help the U.S. remain competitive with countries that are already investing heavily in clean energy.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Second RETool Class: Smart Grids

I'm quite excited for the next RETool class up at the Leeds School of Business in Boulder, Colorado tomorrow morning. We will be learning the technologies, economics, policy, and commercial prospects of smart grids including:

  • Critical performance factors
  • Current costs
  • Local, state, and federal incentives
  • Adoption rates of the technology
  • Job creation and identification

If you'd like to join us you can acquire more information by clicking here. I really am enjoying this program immensely and if you'd like me to give you more of my perspective just leave a question in the comments section.

MetLife and John Hancock Finance Solar PV Power Plant in Colorado

I can't find any reporting on this so it's just a link to a press release. Nonetheless, this looks like the real deal. Two financial institutions are going to finance a 19-megawatt solar photovoltaic power plant in Alamosa County, Colorado. SunPower will build this power plant for Xcel Energy and construction is starting this spring. Oh I can't wait to go check it out. Road trip anyone? And perhaps this utility scale financing may open the floodgates for more utility scale solar or wind projects?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Could the Bloom Box Fuel Cell Revolutionize the Power Industry?

The Bloom Box fuel cell was featured last night on 60 minutes and "the tubes" are abuzz with speculation. It seems like an attractive technology. Fuel (natural gas, biofuels, etc.) goes into one side of the fuel cell, oxygen goes in the other, and the catalyst creates electricity. The beauty of the fuel cell, unlike let's say the internal combustion engine, is that there are no carbon emissions. I have my doubts, but I must admit I am intrigued at the possibility that most homes, who already have natural gas pumped in to heat their water or power their furnace, could use natural gas to power the Bloom Box and generate clean electricity in the home.

Whatever the outcome, I can't wait until Thursday when the Bloom Box is officially revealed to the public.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Energy-Efficient Lighting Made Without Mercury

Compact fluorescent light-bulbs (CFL) use dramatically less electricity and give off less heat than the Edison incandescent bulb (yes the technology is that old), however mercury is used in the manufacturing process. Mercury is increasingly showing up in the oceans, the fish, our water supply, and in our bodies. It's a toxin that causes all kinds of diseases. Now we have some good news from Science Daily on a company (RTI International) that has created a new technology that allows fluorescent bulbs to be manufactured without mercury. They hope to have it available in the marketplace in 3-5 years. From the article:

"Because lighting consumes almost one-fourth of all electricity generated in the United States, our technology could have a significant impact in reducing energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions," Davis said. "The technology also does not contain mercury, which makes it more environmentally friendly and safer to handle than CFLs and other fluorescent lamps."

RTI International: planet Earth and the human race thank you.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

NREL Study: Tall Wind Turbines Could Make More Power

According to this NREL study, if Colorado builds their wind turbines on the plains to at least 262 feet they can produce three times as much energy than earlier estimates released in this Colorado Governor's Energy Office report in 2007 (PDF). The older estimates were based on turbines that were about 162 feet high. So for another 100 feet of material on a turbine one could generate three times as much energy. Hopefully wind farm investors will begin to see the greater ROI and will reverse this disturbing trend: "Vestas Cuts Forecasts as Financing Dearth Slows Turbine Growth". Nice work NREL. Another example of how science and research can pay off.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Even Boulder Finds It Isn't Easy Going Green

This article from the WSJ highlights the growing pains in the energy efficiency industry. Boulder, Colorado is walking the path less traveled with respect to creating an energy policy and educating the public on their carbon footprint. The city will eventually be the model to which the rest of the nation looks. All good policy is built on mistakes.

The article also implies the critical need for certified energy auditors (see RESNET) to help homeowners and businesses save the most money on their energy efficiency efforts. I remember one of my energy teachers saying in class, that we need a license to drive a car but we don't need a license to own a home. He was implying that we really don't know how our homes work (see carbon monoxide deaths due to blockage of combustion air) just as we don't know how to drive a car until we are taught. Each home is unique in that it uses energy differently and wastes energy at different rates. A certified energy auditor will be able to examine your home or commercial building and recommend enhancements that will help your home use energy wisely.

Finally, maybe it's time we all looked in the mirror, myself included. I like gadgets - desktop computers, LCD TVs, cell phones, laptop computers, stereo systems, etc. And our society if increasingly becoming dependent on electricity to use those gadgets. We all have to begin to realize the amount of energy each of our gadgets and households consume and then take the steps to reduce the amount of electricity we consume. It's possible if you educate yourself.

And I'll leave you with this one quote in the 4th paragraph of the article:

"What we've found is that for the vast majority of people, it's exceedingly difficult to get them to do much of anything," says Kevin Doran, a senior research fellow at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

I wonder if humans have always been this way. It is certainly possible that we need some sort of existential threat to light a fire under our posterior.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Sen. Sanders Introduces 10 Million Solar Home Initiative

This is an interesting way to go about encouraging commercial and residential property owners to install either solar PV or solar thermal on their rooftops (in addition to propping up the solar industry). Senator Sanders' (I-VT) bill would like to see 10 million solar installations completed within a decade.

I hope that there is a provision in this bill that requires an energy audit by a certified professional (see RESNET) and subsequent mitigation (insulation, caulking, new windows, etc.) before the installation of a solar system and acquisition of a tax credit. In other words, it is always necessary to weatherize and make your home or building energy efficient before spending any money on a solar system. In particular with respect to solar PV, pinpointing your exact yearly electricity consumption helps to size the solar PV system. For example, if you are already using (and wasting) more energy because of a leaky home with no installation, the kilowatt output of your PV array will be sized much larger (which is more expensive) than what you would need if your home was weatherized and altered to consume less electricity. So get that energy audit first and save yourself some money upfront and by then hopefully Senator Sanders' bill will become law.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Denver Post Op-ed: More Energy from Renewables

A sensible opinion from the Denver Post editorial board on the current renewable energy legislation (30% of our energy from renewables by 2020) before the Colorado House. We definitely need to think ahead when we make such legal mandates, just in case the renewable energy industry isn't as rosy in 2020 as it is in 2010. However, I trust that the Colorado legislature is already familiar with mandates for renewable energy and will be able to create the best bill for both the people of Colorado and its private enterprise.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Gov. Ritter Announces Major Boost to Renewable Energy Standard

The good governor of Colorado announced to the press today that legislation was introduced in the House that will, "raise the state’s renewable energy requirement for large utility companies from 20 percent by 2020 to 30 percent by 2020." Wow. Ten percent more within the same time frame.

This is great news for the people of Colorado as it will bring more clean tech jobs to the state and help move Colorado closer to being the go-to-leader for renewable energy and energy efficiency. Also, if this renewable energy requirement is signed into law there's a good chance that my wishful thinking for solar arrays on every roof on the Front Range may come true. Sweet!

AWEA Q4 Report: 4,041 MW of New U.S. Wind Capacity

The American Wind Energy Association released their quarterly wind production report. The good news? 4,041 megawatts (MW) of wind projects completed for Q4 2009 and 10,000 MW of wind projects completed for all of 2009. This number is down from 2008, but we can all understand that the poor economy probably eliminated a lot of wind farm financing. The disappointing news is that the U.S. still lags in manufacturing. Hopefully we can put some good people to work in 2010 at some wind turbine manufacturing plants here in the United States.

Click here for AWEA Q4 Report in PDF.

Sec. Salazar Named 2009 National Solar Energy Champion by SEIA

Colorado's own, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar was named the 2009 National Solar Energy Champion. This is part of the reason why he got the award:

"Since taking office, Secretary Salazar has set aside 1,000 square miles of public lands in 24 "Solar Study Areas" that have the potential to generate nearly 100,000 megawatts of clean, reliable solar energy."

He's definitely the hardest working Interior Secretary in recent memory and I think that his progressive and thoughtful leadership is exactly what this country needs during this transformation to clean energy. Congrats Sec. Salazar, you're making Colorado proud.

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